Swedish Kids Symptom Checker
Ear - Discharge
1. Does this describe your child's symptoms?
- Drainage of substances/liquids with varied colors and consistency from the ear canal
- Drainage through an ear tube is included
- Normal discharge: earwax or water. Earwax is light brown, dark brown, or orange brown in color.
- Abnormal discharge: cloudy fluid or pus. Main cause is an ear infection with drainage from a ruptured eardrum or through a ventilation tube.
2. When to Call Your Doctor
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Pink or red swelling behind the ear
- Clear or bloody fluid following head injury
- Bleeding from the ear canal (EXCEPTION: few drops and follows ear exam)
- Fever over 104° F (40° C) and not improved 2 hours after fever medicine
- 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
- Ear pain or unexplained crying
- Discharge is yellow or green, cloudy white or foul-smelling (pus)
- Clear drainage (not from a head injury) persists over 24 hours
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
- Probably normal earwax or other harmless discharge and you don't think your child needs to be seen
3. HOME CARE ADVICE FOR EAR DISCHARGE
- Ear wax protects the lining of the ear canal and has germ-killing properties.
- If the earwax is removed, the ear canals become itchy.
- Do not use cotton swabs (Q-tips) in your child's ear.
- Call Your Doctor If: Begins to look like pus (yellow or green discharge)
- Clear Discharge (without head trauma):
- It's probably tears or water that entered the ear canal during a bath, shower, swimming or water fight.
- Don't overlook eardrops your child or someone else used without telling you.
- In children with ventilation tubes, some clear or slightly cloudy fluid can occur when a temporary tube blockage opens up and drains.
- Call Your Doctor If: Clear drainage persists for more than 24 hours or recurs
- Blood After Ear Exam:
- If your doctor had to remove ear wax in order to see the eardrum, about 10% of the time this causes a small scratch to the lining of the ear canal. Usually the scratch oozes 1 or 2 drops of blood and then clots.
- This should heal up completely in a few days.
- It shouldn't affect the hearing.
- Don't put anything in the ear canal because it will probably re-start the bleeding.
- Call Your Doctor If: Bleeding continues or recurs
- Suspected Ear Infection: Cloudy fluid or pus draining from the ear canal almost always means there's a small tear in the eardrum and a middle ear infection. Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen for pain relief until the office visit. (See EARACHE for details)
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Your child becomes worse
- And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.
- 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 12:00:00 AM
- Last Revised: 8/1/2011 2:58:11 PM
- Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
- Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Swedish Kids Symptom Checker is designed especially for these times. The interactive iPhone application can help you make appropriate decisions on what level of care, if any, is needed and how to provide symptom relief for minor illnesses and injuries you can manage on your own.