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Signs a Baby Has an Earache

author image Sarah Harding
Sarah Harding has written stacks of research articles dating back to 2000. She has consulted in various settings and taught courses focused on psychology. Her work has been published by ParentDish, Atkins and other clients. Harding holds a Master of Science in psychology from Capella University and is completing several certificates through the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association.
Signs a Baby Has an Earache
A doctor looking into a baby's ear. Photo Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

An earache in a baby can be the result of an infection as well as pressure from sinus congestion. Pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene, points out that the most common reason parents taken a baby to a doctor for a suspected ear infection is ear pulling. He explains that in only 15 percent of cases, ear pulling is a sign of infection. There are other more reliable clues that indicate a baby has an earache.

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Signs of Pain

Crying or screaming for less than half an hour, suggests Dr. Greene, is a sign of pain. Earaches can be intermittent, with the pain increasing when the baby is lying down. When the baby is horizontal, the fluid can build up and cause more pain, causing the baby to cry more when in bed. An infant can become fussy or irritable and struggle to get to sleep. The pain may seem to disappear in the morning.

Head Shaking

Fluid that builds in the middle ear can interfere with hearing. Sounds can be muffled for the baby, and she may shake her head as a result.


A fever with no other prominent signs of illness, except fussiness, may suggest an ear infection. Dr. Greene points out that a fever with other signs of earache practically confirms an ear infection, but fevers over 104 degrees occur in fewer than 5 percent of ear infection cases.

Other Clues

Head rubbing, ear rubbing or pulling her own hair may be signs of an earache or other pain. An infant may refuse to eat because the ear pain has traveled down to the jaw or is intensified with sucking motions. An infant may also want to breastfeed or suckle a pacifier more when she has an earache because she may find it soothing. Whether suckling worsens an earache depends on the infant. Any signs of discharge combined with other earache symptoms should be examined by a medical care provider. The ear may become red from the pain, especially if an ear infection is the cause.

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