About ear pulling or ear tugging in children
If your baby or young child is pulling at their ears, it might be a sign that they’re tired or that their ears are blocked with ear wax.
Ear pulling or tugging can also sometimes be a sign of a middle ear infection or external ear infection.
Teething is often blamed for ear pulling, but it isn’t clear whether there’s a link between teething and pulling.
Medical help: when to get it for children with ear pulling
You should take your child to the GP if your child:
- shows signs of an ear infection, including an earache, trouble hearing, itchiness or ear discharge
- is unwell and has a fever for no apparent reason
- might have put in a foreign object in their ear.
Treatment for ear pulling
Ear pulling or tugging usually isn’t anything to worry about.
If you think your child is pulling their ears because they’re tired, you could try settling your child for sleep or giving your child some quiet time.
To get rid of a build-up of ear wax, you could try ear drops that you can buy from your pharmacy. You can also use a few drops of olive oil.
If your child has an ear infection, they might need antibiotics. Your GP will talk about this with you.
If you think your child is in pain from teething, you could try giving your child paracetamol or ibuprofen in recommended doses.
Don’t try to clean your child’s ears with things like cotton buds. This can damage the ear canal or drum. If you do need to clean your child’s ear – for example, because of discharge from an ear infection – gently use the twisted corner of a tissue.