Ear Injury

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Injuries to the outer ear, ear canal or eardrum

Types of Ear Injuries

  • Cut or Scratch. Most cuts of the outer ear do not need sutures.
  • Bruise. Most bruises of the outer ear just leave a purple mark. They heal on their own.
  • Blood Clot (Serious). Most of the outer ear is made of cartilage. A large blood clot (hematoma) can cut off the blood supply to the cartilage. It needs to be drained. If not, the ear may become deformed (boxer's ear).
  • Ear Canal Bleeding. Most are due to a scratch of ear canal. This can be caused by cotton swab, fingernail, or ear exam. Most stop bleeding on their own. Persistent bleeding needs to be seen.
  • Punctured Eardrum. Most are due to long-pointed objects put in the ear canal. Examples are cotton swabs, pencils, sticks, straws, or wires.
  • Loss of Hearing (Serious). Caused by blunt trauma, such as a slap to the ear. Also, caused by explosions.

When to Call for Ear Injury

When to Call for Ear Injury

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Upper part of the ear is very swollen
  • Pointed object was put into the ear canal (such as a pencil, stick, or wire)
  • Clear fluid is draining from the ear canal
  • Walking is not steady
  • Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Age less than 1 year old
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Few drops of blood in the ear canal. Caused by a minor injury, cotton swab (Q-tip) or ear exam.
  • Injury causes an earache or crying lasts more than 30 minutes
  • Hearing is less on injured side
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in more than 5 years
  • Clean cut and no tetanus shot in more than 10 years
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor ear injury

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Upper part of the ear is very swollen
  • Pointed object was put into the ear canal (such as a pencil, stick, or wire)
  • Clear fluid is draining from the ear canal
  • Walking is not steady
  • Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Age less than 1 year old
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Few drops of blood in the ear canal. Caused by a minor injury, cotton swab (Q-tip) or ear exam.
  • Injury causes an earache or crying lasts more than 30 minutes
  • Hearing is less on injured side
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in more than 5 years
  • Clean cut and no tetanus shot in more than 10 years
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor ear injury

Care Advice for Minor Ear Injuries

  1. Bleeding - How To Stop:
    • For any bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound.
    • Use a gauze pad or clean cloth.
    • Press for 10 minutes or until the bleeding has stopped.
  2. Clean the Wound:
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
  3. Antibiotic Ointment:
    • For cuts and scrapes, use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed.
    • Put it on the cut 3 times a day.
    • Do this for 3 days.
    • Cover large scrapes with a bandage (such as Band-Aid). Change daily.
  4. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Minor ear wounds heal quickly.
    • Most often, cuts and scrapes heal in 2 or 3 days.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain gets severe
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

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

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Copyright 2000-2019 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

Denver Pediatrics

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