- Drainage of substances with varied colors and consistency from the ear canal.
- Normal discharge: earwax or water. Earwax is light brown, dark brown, or orange brown in color.
- Main cause of abnormal discharge: an ear infection with drainage of cloudy fluid or pus through a ruptured eardrum or through a ventilation tube.
See More Appropriate Topic
- If follows ear injury, see Ear Trauma
- If began while doing lots of swimming, see Swmmer’s Ear
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
- Fever > 104°F (40°C)
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Ear pain or unexplained crying
- Discharge is yellow or green, cloudy white or foul-smelling (pus)
- Clear drainage (not from a head injury) persists > 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 water and you don’t think your child needs to be seen
Home Care Advice for Ear Discharges
- Earwax: Ear wax protects the lining of the ear canal and has germ-killing properties. If the earwax is removed, the ear canals become itchy.
- Call back 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 come from a temporary tube blockage that opens up and drains.
- Call back if: Clear drainage persists > 24 hours or recurs.
- Suspected Ear Infection: Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief until the office visit. (See Earache for details)