Main AHCA Website

AHCA’s main website for information on Medicaid, Health Quality Assurance and the Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency.

Go >

Florida Health Information Network

This website provides information and resources relating to AHCA’s initiatives for Health Information Technology and Health Information Exchange.

Go >

Provides health education and information to compare and locate health care providers in Florida to make well-informed health care decisions.

Go >
AHCA Network of Websites

Health Education

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia



An earache is a sharp, dull, or burning pain in one or both ears. The pain may last a short time or be ongoing. Related conditions include:

Alternative Names

Otalgia; Pain - ear; Ear pain


The symptoms of an ear infection may include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Fussiness
  • Increased crying
  • Irritability

Many children will have minor hearing loss during or right after an ear infection. Most of the time the problem goes away. Lasting hearing loss is rare, but the risk increases with the number of infections.


The eustachian tube runs from the middle part of each ear to the back of the throat. This tube drains fluid that is made in the middle ear. If the eustachian tube becomes blocked, fluid can build up. This may lead to pressure behind the eardrum or an ear infection.

Ear pain in adults is less likely to be from an ear infection. Pain that you feel in the ear may be coming from another place, such as your teeth, the joint in your jaw (temporomandibular joint), or your throat. This is called "referred" pain.

Causes of ear pain may include:

Ear pain in a child or infant may be due to infection. Other causes may include:

  • Ear canal irritation from cotton-tipped swabs
  • Soap or shampoo staying in the ear

Home Care

The following steps may help an earache:

  • Place a cold pack or cold wet washcloth on the outer ear for 20 minutes to reduce pain.
  • Chewing may help relieve the pain and pressure of an ear infection. (Gum can be a choking hazard for young children.)
  • Resting in an upright position instead of lying down can reduce pressure in the middle ear.
  • Over-the-counter ear drops can be used to relieve pain, as long as the eardrum has not ruptured.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can provide relief for children and adults with an earache. (Do NOT give aspirin to children.)

For ear pain caused by a change of altitude, such as on an airplane:

  • Swallow or chew gum as the plane descends.
  • Allow infants to suck on a bottle or breastfeed.

The following steps can help prevent earaches:

  • Avoid smoking near children. Secondhand smoke is a major cause of ear infections in children.
  • Prevent outer ear infections by not putting objects in the ear.
  • Dry the ears well after bathing or swimming.
  • Take steps to control allergies. Try to avoid allergy triggers.
  • Try a steroid nasal spray to help reduce ear infections. (However, over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants do NOT prevent ear infections.)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • Your child has a high fever, severe pain, or seems sicker than is usual for an ear infection.
  • Your child has new symptoms such as dizziness, headache, swelling around the ear, or weakness in the face muscles.
  • Severe pain suddenly stops (this may be a sign of a ruptured eardrum).
  • Symptoms (pain, fever, or irritability) get worse or do not improve within 24 to 48 hours.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will do a physical exam and look at the ear, nose, and throat areas.

Pain, tenderness, or redness of the mastoid bone behind the ear on the skull is often a sign of a serious infection.


Bauer CA, Jenkins HA. Otologic symptoms and syndromes. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2015:chap 156.

Coker TR, Chan LS, Newberry SJ, Limbos MA, Suttorp MJ, Shekelle PG, et al. Diagnosis, microbial epidemiology, and antibiotic treatment of acute otitis media in children: a systematic review. JAMA. 2010 Nov 17;304(19):2161-9. PMID: 21081729

Lieberthal AS, Carroll AE, Chonmaitree T. Clinical Practice Guideline: The Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media. Pediatrics. 2013;131(3): e964-99. PMID: 23439909

O'Handley JG, Tobin EJ, Shah AR. Otorhinolaryngology In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 18.

Review Date:4/21/2015
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Read More

Fever *

Hearing loss


* Has Related Health Outcome Information

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback
1. Did you find this information useful?

2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?