Ear - Injury  
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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

  • Injuries to the outer ear, ear canal or eardrum

Types of Ear Injuries

  • Bruises and scratches of outer ear
  • Blood clot of outer ear
  • Ear canal bleeding due to scratch of ear canal (caused by cotton swab, fingernail, or medical ear exam)
  • Punctured eardrum due to long-pointed objects (caused by cotton swabs, pencils, sticks, straws, wires)
When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Bleeding won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Outer upper ear is very swollen
  • Pointed object was inserted into the ear canal
  • Clear fluid is draining from the ear canal
  • Walking is unsteady
  • Severe pain
  • Age under 1 year old
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Few drops of blood from ear canal due to minor injury, cotton swab (Q-tip) or ear exam
  • Injury causes an earache or crying that persists
  • Hearing is decreased on injured side
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • No tetanus shot in over 5 years for DIRTY cuts (over 10 years for CLEAN cuts)
  • You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
  • Minor ear injury and you don't think your child needs to be seen

  1. Bleeding: Apply direct pressure for 10 minutes with a sterile gauze to stop any bleeding.
  2. Cleansing: Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
  3. Antibiotic Ointment: Apply an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin (no prescription needed) to any cuts or scrapes. Cover large scrapes with a Band-Aid. Change daily.
  4. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as necessary for pain relief.
  5. Expected Course: Minor ear injuries heal quickly, usually in 2 or 3 days.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 8/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.