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Alternative Names Return to topDrainage from the ear; Otorrhea; Ear bleeding; Bleeding from ear
Definition Return to top
Ear discharge is drainage of blood, ear wax, pus, or fluid from the ear.
Considerations Return to top
Most of the time, any fluid leaking out of an ear is ear wax.
However, discharge may also be caused by a minor irritation or infection. A ruptured eardrum can cause a white, slightly bloody, or yellow discharge from the ear. Dry crusted material on a child's pillow is often a sign of a ruptured eardrum.
Bleeding from the ear may also be due to:
Causes Return to top
Home Care Return to top
To be safe, never put anything in the ear that is smaller than the tip of your little finger.
Treat inflammation or infection as your health care provider recommends. Your doctor may suggest ear drops.
Use a gentle, warm water flush with a syringe (available at the drug store) to remove packed-down ear wax. Do not attempt to remove impacted ear wax in very young children. If you can easily see and retrieve ear wax in older children, do so carefully. NEVER use sharp objects to attempt to remove wax.
Seek medical help for:
Don't get alarmed over a ruptured eardrum. Eardrum rupture is the first sign of the healing process. Antibiotics can help prevent further infection during the healing process. Eardrum ruptures in children will usually heal completely within a few weeks.
For swimmer's ear (unless the eardrum is perforated):
Putting a little mineral oil or baby oil in each ear before swimming may help prevent the problem.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
The health care provider will perform a physical examination and look inside the ears. You may be asked questions, such as:
The doctor may take a sample of the ear drainage and send it to a lab for examination.
The doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medicines, which are placed in the ear. Antibiotics will be given by mouth if a ruptured eardrum is causing the discharge.
References Return to top
Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 4th ed. St Louis, Mo; Mosby; 2005:2867-2871.
Behrman RE. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 17th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders: 2004; 2127.Update Date: 10/10/2008 Updated by: Alan Lipkin, MD, Otolaryngologist, Private Practice, Denver, Colorado. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.