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The board-certified, fellowship-trained pediatric infectious disease specialists with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, provide evaluation and treatment of otorrhea, also called watery ears or runny ears, and its complications in children.

What Is Otorrhea?

Otorrhea, also called watery ears or runny ears, is drainage that cones out of the ear canal. This drainage, which may or may not have a foul smell, can be:

  • Purulent: Contain pus
  • Sanguineous: Contain blood
  • Serous: Thin and watery

Otorrhea can be caused by:

  • Tear in the eardrum (perforated eardrum)
  • Outer ear infection, such as swimmer’s ear or a fungal (yeast) infection in the ear canal
  • Head injury, which can cause cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) to leak. This is a less common cause, but it is serious and can be life-threatening.

If your child’s ear begins draining and they don’t have ear tubes, they should be evaluated by a physician.

Otorrhea Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Hearing loss
  • Itching
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Vertigo (feels like the room is spinning/dizzy)

Otorrhea Treatment

Treatment for otorrhea depends on the underlying cause of the drainage. Treatment will be based on the child’s age, current health and medical history. Treatments may include:

  • Antibiotic ear drops
  • Oral antibiotics

Why Choose Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases?

  • Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases specializes in the care of children from birth through adolescence.
  • With seven infectious diseases specialists and one nurse practitioner on staff, your child can be seen quickly, especially for urgent needs.
  • Members of our team are nationally recognized and have held or serve in leadership positions related to infectious diseases.
  • Our provider team is leading Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Group in COVID-19 efforts, helping streamline infection prevention and providing patient care during the pandemic.
  • Our team provides inpatient consultation services at Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, as well as telemedicine services throughout Kentucky. Our physicians also treat patients at UofL Hospital.
  • Keep up with your child’s lab results, communicate with your provider and schedule appointments through MyNortonChart.

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