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Evaluation of earache in children

David Greenes, MD
Section Editor
Gary R Fleisher, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


This topic will discuss the evaluation of earache in children. The diagnosis and management of common causes of ear pain are discussed separately:

(See "Acute otitis media in children: Diagnosis" and "Acute otitis media in children: Treatment".)

(See "Otitis media with effusion (serous otitis media) in children: Clinical features and diagnosis" and "Otitis media with effusion (serous otitis media) in children: Management".)

(See "External otitis: Pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis" and "External otitis: Treatment".)


Ear pain (or otalgia) ranks as one of the leading complaints among children evaluated in the primary care or emergency setting. Most patients will have one of three common diagnoses (acute otitis media, otitis externa, or otitis media with effusion) which are generally not serious. The rare cases of more serious disease associated with ear pain usually result from extension of ear infection to adjacent anatomic structures (eg, mastoiditis, meningitis, malignant otitis externa, venous sinus thrombosis). Basilar skull fracture or epidural hematoma after head trauma may also present with ear pain.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 06, 2017.
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