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- 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.
- Cotton Swab Injuries: Cotton swabs cause more than 10,000 ear injuries each year in the US. More than 2,000 are punctured eardrums. Never let young children put cotton swabs in their ears.
- 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.
Go to ER Now
- Bleeding that won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
- Large deep cut that will need many stitches
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
- Skin is cut and No past tetanus shots. Note: tetanus is the "T" in DTaP, TdaP, or Td vaccines.
- Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
- Age less than 1 year old
- Outer ear injury looks infected (spreading redness)
- You think your child has a serious injury
- You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent
Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Few drops of blood in the ear canal. Caused by a minor injury, cotton swab or ear exam.
- Injury causes an earache or crying lasts more than 30 minutes
- Hearing is less on injured side
- Dirty cut or hard to clean and no tetanus shot in more than 5 years
- Clean cut and no tetanus shot in more than 10 years
- You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent
Contact Doctor During Office Hours
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
- Minor ear injury
- Pierced ear with minor injury
Care Advice for Minor Ear Injuries
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.
Clean the Wound:
- Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.
- 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. Change daily.
- To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
- Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
- Use as needed.
What to Expect:
- Minor ear wounds heal quickly.
- Most often, cuts and scrapes heal in 2 or 3 days.
Preventing Ear Injuries:
- Careful adult supervision of young children.
- Never let young children put cotton swabs in their ears.
Call Your Doctor If:
- Pain gets severe
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Your child becomes worse
Copyright 2000-2023. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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