Bauer CA, Jenkins HA. Otologic symptoms and syndromes. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 156. Brant JA, Ruckenstein MJ. Infections of the external ear. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 137. Lee DJ, Roberts D. Topical therapies for external ear disorders. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 138. O\’Handley JG, Tobin EJ, Shah AR. Otorhinolaryngology. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 18.
Is this your child\’s symptom? Pus or Cloudy Fluid. This is the most common type of ear discharge. The main cause is an ear infection.
The drainage is from a torn eardrum. The eardrum ruptures in about 10% of bacterial ear infections. Ear Tube Fluid Release. Children with frequent ear infections may get ventilation tubes put in. These help the middle ear drain its fluids and become dry. Sometimes, the ear tube gets plugged up. Normal fluids build up in the middle ear until the ear tube opens up again. This can cause some clear fluid drainage from the ear canal for a day. Earwax. Earwax is light brown, dark brown, or orange brown in color. If it gets wet, it can look like a discharge. Blood. This follows an injury to the ear. Usually, it\’s just a minor scratch of the lining of the ear canal. Water. Bath water or tears can get in the ear canal. Seeing a clear \”discharge\” that happens once is likely this. Ear Drops. The person who sees the discharge may not know someone else put in drops.
Swimmer\’s Ear Discharge. Early symptoms are an itchy ear canal. Later symptoms include a whitish, watery discharge. Mainly occurs in swimmers and in the summer time. Ear Canal Foreign Body (Object). Young children may put small objects in their ear canal. It can cause a low grade infection and pus colored discharge. If the object was sharp, the discharge may have streaks of blood. Age under 12 weeks old with fever. (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen) You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent Discharge is yellow or green, cloudy white or smells bad You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent If your childвs illness or injury is life-threating, call 911. 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.
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 injury): 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. Cloudy Discharge – 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 an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol). Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil). Use as needed. See Earache care guide for more advice. And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the \’Call Your Doctor\’ symptoms. Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Copyright 1994-2017 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC. All rights reserved.