Community Health Network

Ranked among the nation's most integrated healthcare systems, Community Health Network is Central Indiana's leader in providing convenient access to exceptional healthcare services, where and when patients need them—in hospitals, health pavilions, workplaces, schools and homes.

Explore Community

Close

Pediatric - Ear Congestion

Ear - congestion

Back to Index

Does this describe your child's symptoms?

Definition
  • Sudden onset of muffled hearing
  • Crackling or popping noises in the ear
  • A stuffy, full sensation in the ear
  • Usually no ear pain, except with air-travel type
  • Unusual complaint until after age 4 or 5 years

Causes

  • Blockage of ear tube (eustachian tube) during nose allergies, a cold or over-vigorous nose-blowing
  • Sudden increases in air pressure, which occur in descent from mountain driving or airplane travel
  • Middle ear fluid can also be seen with a resolving ear infection

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Earache
  • Possible foreign body in ear canal
  • Ear congestion lasts over 48 hours
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Blocked ear wax suspected
Parent Care at Home If
  • Ear congestion (probably from blocked eustachian tube) and you don't think your child needs to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR EAR CONGESTION

  1. More Chewing and Swallowing: Swallow water or other fluid while the nose is pinched closed. (Reason: creates a vacuum in the nose that helps the Eustachian tube to open up.) After age 6, can also use chewing gum.
  2. Decongestant Nasal Spray:
    • If chewing doesn't help after 1 or 2 hours, use a long-acting decongestant nasal spray. You can ask your pharmacist to recommend a brand.
    • Don't use more than 5 days. (Reason: rebound swelling)
    • An oral decongestant (e.g., pseudoephedrine) may help if the nasal spray is not available (See Dosage table). Do not use under age 2 years.
  3. Antihistamines: If your child has hay fever or other allergies, give an antihistamine.
  4. Expected Course: The symptoms usually clear within 2 days (48 hours) with treatment. It's safe for your child to swim.
  5. Prevention for Airplane/Mountain Travel:
    • Swallow during descent using a pacifier or fluids
    • Children over age 6 can chew on gum during descent
    • Yawning also can open the middle ear
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Ear pain occurs
    • Ear congestion lasts over 48 hours
    • 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: 1/19/2009

Last Revised: 6/24/2008

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Online

Copyright 1994-2009 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Proud sponsors

  • Indiana Fever
  • Indianapolis Indians
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
  • Indy Eleven
  • Indy Fuel

Health and wellness shopping

  • Home Health Medical online store for medical supplies and equipment
  • Wellspring Pharmacy
  • FigLeaf Boutique
  • Jasmine gift shop