Ear Congestion

Symptom Definition

  • Sudden onset of muffled hearing
  • Crackling or popping noises in the ear
  • A stuffy, full sensation in the ear
  • No ear pain
  • Unusual complaint until after age 4 or 5 years
  • Common causes: blockage of ear tube (eustachian tube) during nose allergies, a cold or airplane/mountain travel

See More Appropriate Topic If

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Earache
  • Possible foreign body in ear canal
  • Ear congestion lasts > 48 hours

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

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: Have your child chew gum if over age 4. Swallow water while the nose is pinched closed.
  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.
  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 > age 4 can chew on gum during descent
    • Yawning also can open the middle ear
  6. Call Your Doctor If
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor” symptoms
    • Ear congestion lasts > 48 hours
    • Ear pain occurs