Ear - Discharge
- Drainage of substances/liquids with different colors and consistency from the ear canal
- Drainage through an ear tube is included
- Discharge that is normal: earwax or water. Earwax is light brown, dark brown, or orange brown in color.
- Discharge that isn't normal: cloudy fluid or pus. Main cause is an ear infection. This can cause drainage from a torn eardrum or through a ventilation tube.
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 after a head injury
- Bleeding from the ear canal (Exception: few drops and after an ear exam)
- Age under 12 weeks old with fever. (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.)
- Fever over 104° F (40° C)
- 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
- Age less than 6 months old
- Ear pain or crying like in pain
- Discharge is yellow or green, cloudy white or smells bad
- Clear drainage (not from a head injury) lasts more than 24 hours
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
- Normal earwax or other harmless discharge
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):
- Most likely, this is from tears or water that entered the ear canal. This can happen 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. This happens when a tube blockage opens up and drains.
- Call Your Doctor If: Clear drainage lasts for more than 24 hours.
- Blood After Ear Exam:
- Sometimes, ear wax needs to be removed by your doctor to see the eardrum. If ear wax was removed, it can cause a small scratch inside the ear canal. This happens about 10% of the time. The scratch oozes 1 or 2 drops of blood and then clots.
- This should heal up in a few days.
- It shouldn't affect the hearing.
- Don't put anything in the ear canal. This may start the bleeding again.
- Call Your Doctor If: Bleeding starts again.
- Ear Infection:
- Cloudy fluid or pus draining from the ear canal usually means there's an ear infection.
- The pus drains because there's a small tear in the eardrum.
- To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.
- See EARACHE for more advice.
- Call Your Doctor If: Your child becomes worse.
Author: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last reviewed: 9/1/2012
Last revised: 12/15/2012 1:47:55 PM