Ear discharge is drainage of ear wax, blood, pus, or fluid from the ear. Most of the time the fluid that drains from the ear is usually wax. Wax is a brown, grey, or yellowish waxy substance secreted in the ear canal of humans and other mammals. It protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some protection against bacteria, fungi, insects, and water. It is normal when this drains from the ear.

When you notice other fluids draining from the ear of a child, it is important the child visits an healthcare professional before ear damage occurs. ;

  • Introduction of foreign objects into the ear or fracture of the bones of the ear among others can cause blood discharge in the ear.
  • When an infection in the middle ear (otitis media) causes ear discharge, we call it Purulent discharge (pus). It is the most common form of ear discharge in children. In about 10% of cases, there is usually a rupture of the eardrum. It can also be due to the presence of a foreign object in the ear. This can lead to foul smell from the ear. If the foreign object is sharp, there can be streaks of blood.
  • Clear fluid from the ear can be due to swimmers ear which results when contaminated water gets into the ear. It can also be due to eczema and otitis externa (infection of the ear canal).


Prompt visit to the hospital is required if there is any ear discharge that is not wax, and if the child has any of the following symptoms such as;

  • Fever
  • Swelling around the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Pain
  • Headache
  • The child looks sick

When a child shows any of the symptoms above, it is important the child sees a doctor.

Also Read: Asthma in children; predisposing factor, treatment and prevention

Treatments for Ear Discharge in Children

This is dependent on the cause of the discharge, type of discharge and complication.

  • If you suspect earwax, just clean the outermost discharge. Don’t use qtips to clean the ear of your child because wax has protective attributes and cleaning it could also lead to ear itching.
  • If you notice purulent discharge, it is important you take the child to see a doctor who can prescribe ear drops. This is if there is no eardrum rupture or oral antibiotics to take care of the infection
  • In swimmers ear, the child is given antibiotics and advised to avoid water for a while
  • Removal of foreign body is also done by the doctor in cases of foreign object insertion
  • X-ray of the skull is done if a fracture is suspected


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