Causes of children tugging at ears

In babies and toddlers, tugging at ears might be a sign that your child is tired or that her ear is blocked with wax.

Tugging at ears can also sometimes be a sign of an ear infection.

Teething is often blamed for ear tugging, but it isn’t clear whether there’s a link between teething and tugging.

When to see a doctor about tugging at ears

You should take your child to the GP if:

  • you think he might have an ear infection
  • your child is unwell and has a fever for no apparent reason
  • you think your child might have put something in his ear.


Tugging at ears and pulling at ears usually isn’t anything to worry about.

If you think your child is tugging her ears because she’s tired, you could try settling her for sleep, or giving her some quiet time.

If your child has an ear infection he might need antibiotics. Your GP will talk about this with you.

Don’t try to clean your child’s ears with things like cotton tips. Avoid putting anything in your child’s ear canal.

If you think your child is in pain from teething, you could try giving some her paracetamol at the recommended dose.