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Ear Injury

What are ear injuries?

Injuries to the outer ear are usually bruises and scratches. If the ear is severely swollen, a blood clot is present which could permanently damage the shape of the ear if it is not treated by a healthcare provider.

Most bleeding from within the ear canal (the channel that carries sound down to the eardrum) is from a scratch on the lining caused by a fingernail, cotton swabs, or physician's otoscope. These scratches just bleed a few drops and then heal. Long, pointed objects (for example, a stick) carry the risk of puncturing the eardrum.

How can I take care of my child?

If your child has cuts or scrapes on the surface of the ear:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Then wash the wound vigorously with water and liquid soap for 5 minutes.
  3. Rinse the wound well.
  4. Apply pressure for 10 minutes with a sterile gauze to stop bleeding.
  5. Apply an antibiotic ointment (OTC) 3 times per day until healed over.

Don't use alcohol on open wounds because they sting and damage normal tissue. Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?


  • The skin is split open and might need sutures.
  • The ear is very swollen.
  • A pointed object was inserted into the ear canal.
  • Your child is acting very sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • The injury caused an earache.
  • The hearing is decreased on that side.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2017-06-05
Last reviewed: 2017-06-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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