Cuts and Wounds of the Outer Ear

Children may get minor cuts, wounds, and deep cuts (lacerations) to the outer part of the ear while playing, climbing, or doing sports. Most of these injuries can be handled at home with simple first aid treatment.

First aid for superficial cuts and wounds

  • Stay calm. It's important for you to stay in control. This will help you to make better decisions. And your child will also be less likely to panic if you stay calm and reassuring. 

  • Calm your child and let them know you can help.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean, running water. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.

  • Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes to stop bleeding.

  • Wash the cut area well with soap and water. But don't scrub the wound. Remove any dirt particles from the area and let the water from the faucet run over it for several minutes. A dirty cut or scrape that isn't thoroughly cleaned can cause scarring and infection.

  • Apply an antiseptic lotion or cream.

  • Cover the area with an adhesive bandage or gauze pad. Change the dressing often.

  • Check the area each day and keep it clean and dry.

  • Don't blow on the scrape (abrasion). This can cause germs to enter the wound and grow.

  • Any wound to the ear cartilage that is more than just a superficial cut or laceration should be checked by a healthcare provider. The provider can decide if more treatment is needed.

  • Bruises, blisters, or swollen areas caused by injury may be treated by placing an ice pack or cold pack on the area every 1 to 2 hours for 10 to 15 minutes for the first 24 hours. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin cloth or towel. Don't put ice directly against the skin. 

  • A direct blow to the ear that causes a large bruise or collection of blood and fluid under the skin (hematoma) should be checked by a healthcare provider. The provider can decide if more treatment is needed. If there is a bruise (contusion) in the cartilage, a condition called a subperichondral hematoma can develop. If the hematoma isn't treated with drainage, it can cause a cauliflower ear deformity. 

  • Prevent direct sun exposure on the wound or wear protective clothing for the next few months. Use a sunscreen on healed cuts and wounds to help prevent scarring. Choose sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher. This helps to prevent scarring.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Specific treatment for cuts and wounds of the ear that need more than minor treatment at home will be discussed by your child's healthcare provider. In general, call your child's provider right away or get medical care for ear cuts and wounds that:

  • Are bleeding heavily and don't stop after 5 to 10 minutes of direct pressure. If the bleeding is gushing, hold pressure for 5 to 10 minutes without stopping to look at the cut. If the cloth becomes soaked with blood, put a new cloth on top of the old one. Don't lift the original cloth.

  • Are deep or longer than 1/2 inch

  • Occur with hearing loss

  • Are caused by a puncture wound, or dirty or rusty object

  • Are embedded with debris, such as dirt, stones, or gravel

  • Are ragged or have separated edges

  • Are caused by an animal or human bite

  • Are very painful

  • May also involve a fracture, or head or bone injury

  • Show signs of infection, such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, bad odor, or drainage (even if the cut or wound is small)

  • Change in behavior, disorientation, double vision or severe headaches. These symptoms may suggest a more serious injury, including head injury

Also call your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has not had a tetanus shot in the past 5 years. Or you are not sure when your child's last tetanus shot was given.

  • You are concerned about the wound or have any questions.

Preventing ear injuries

Follow these guidelines to help prevent ear injuries in children:

  • Teach your child not to poke or place objects in the ear, such as cotton swabs or pencils.

  • Teach your child to wear protective ear guards or helmets for sports activities that could cause injury.

  • If your child is planning to have their ears pierced, be sure it's done by a professional. Take care of your child's ears afterward according to the directions given.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ashutosh Kacker MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.