An ear infection (acute otitis media) is a painful condition that is more likely to develop in children than adults. This makes the management and treatment somewhat more difficult and sensitive, as parents and health care professionals don’t want to risk the child’s health.
After a crying infant is brought to the doctor’s office following a sleepless night, the doctor often quickly prescribes some antibiotics to ease the discomfort. But, antibiotics might not be the best choice when it comes to ear infections and you may want to consider home remedies for treating ear infection. In fact, the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics have been promoting the ‘wait- and-see’ approach since 2004.
Ear infections might be unpleasant and exhausting for kids and adults alike, but they most often resolve by themselves. You don’t want to be unnecessarily contributing to a growing antibiotic resistance. What is usually needed is some good rest, symptom control, careful observation and a bit of patience.
Ear infection symptoms
Common symptoms include:
– Ear ache
– Diminished hearing
– Drainage of fluids from the ear
In children, you may also observe:
– Pulling at the ear
– Difficulty sleeping
– Irritability and crying
– Loss of balance
– Loss of appetite
Is it really an ear infection?
Dr. Allan Lieberthal, the lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, believes that ear infections are a highly over-diagnosed condition. If the child is acting funny, the ear hurts, and there is some redness of the inner membrane, it doesn’t automatically mean that he or she has an ear
infection. It might just be that the fluid is not draining well.
Prescribing antibiotics won’t always solve the problem. Ear infections can be caused either by bacteria or viruses. In viral cases –which are very common – antibiotics won’t work as viruses don’t respond to them.
According to a research, the ‘wait-and-see’ approach is much more advisable, especially in children over the age of two. Dr. Lieberthal suggests waiting for 48 to 72 hours to see if the symptoms will go away by themselves.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that antibiotics are prescribes only if there is ‘moderate to severe’ bulging of the tympanic membrane (the eardrum). Also, to make sure the cause is bacterial, a swab should be taken first.
Natural ear infection remedies
While you’re waiting for your (or your little one’s) infection to clear, there are many natural remedies that can help you alleviate the symptoms and reduce the discomfort and pain.
Garlic works as a natural antibiotic and it helps with the pain. It contains powerful aromatic compounds that have an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effect. You can use it in different ways:
• Make garlic oil:
– Cook 2 cloves of garlic in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil or mustard oil or olive oil until it becomes black.
– Strain the solution.
– Pour two to four drops of the oil into your ear. The temperature should be warm.
– You need to lie on your side for at least 30 seconds to let the oil disappear in the ear canal.
– Repeat 3 to 4 times daily.
• Make garlic compress:
– Boil 2 to 3 fresh garlic cloves for a few minutes.
– Crush them and add some salt.
– Wrap the mixture in clean cloth and press it against the painful ear.
• Eat raw garlic
– Two to three crushed cloves a day will boost your immunity and help with the healing process.
2. Olive oil
Olive oil is a natural medicine and it can help clear the obstruction by softening the wax. As one of the main causes of an ear infection is wax in the ear that catches fungal or bacterial growth, you can easily clear the blockage with the help of olive oil.
– Warm the oil slightly.
– Pour a few drops into the affected ear.
– When the wax has softened, gently remove it from the outer ear with cotton-tipped swabs, but be careful not to go to deep and cause an injury (I’ve previously mentioned why it’s not good to clean inside your ears).
Tip: To increase the efficacy you can add to the oil garlic and mullein flowers that work very well for ear infections. Mullein has been used in traditional medical systems due to its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. You can find more information about it in my post on how to use garlic mullein oil to treat ear infection.
3. Steam inhalations with Eucalyptus and lavender essential oils
Since your nose and ear canal are connected, steam inhalations also help soothe ear discomfort.
– Boil some water and pour it in a non-plastic container.
– Add a few drops of eucalyptus and lavender essential oils. You can also add tea tree oil and it is also useful for treating sinus infections.
– Cover your head with a towel and inhale deeply.
Holy basil has shown to be effective with minor earaches and ear infections.
• Basil juice
– Crush four to five fresh leaves to extract the juice.
– Apply it around the ear, but make sure it doesn’t leak into the ear canal.
• Basil oil
– Mix a few drops of basil oil with carrier oil (coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil).
– Pour it on a cotton ball and wipe around the ear, just inside the ear (but not into the ear canal) and behind the ear.
– Repeat twice daily.
5. Diluted tea tree oil
There are conflicting references regarding the use of tea tree oil for ear infection. According toLivestrong website and many other references, tea tree oil has long been used as an alternative treatment for ear infections due to its antiseptic properties.
A few drops of tea tree oil should be diluted with ¼ cup of warm olive oil prior to use. Tilt your head to one side and use a small dropper to add a few drops to the ear. Keep your head tilted for one minute, so the liquid can slide into the ear canal. When you return to an upright position, gently dab the ear with a clean cotton ball. Repeat three times a day for two days.
However according to WebMD website, it is not recommended to use tea tree oil in the ears, because it may cause damage to the inner ear. Mayo Clinic advises to avoid adding tea tree oil into the middle ear, as toxicity of the ear has occurred with large doses. Therefore always dilute tea tree oil and consult with your doctor before using it inside your ear.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
According to Livestrong website, ACV changes the pH of the ear canal, creating an environment where bacteria and viruses cannot thrive.
Heat a 50/50 mixture of raw unprocessed organic ACV and water and test on the inside of the wrist to make sure the temperature is not too hot. Soak a cotton ball into this mixture and leave it plugged onto your ear for several minutes a few times daily. Lie on your side so that the vinegar will soak deeply into the ear canals.
When to see a doctor
In some cases, medical assistance is required. See a doctor if:
– Your child has a fever of over 102F (39C).
– He or she has severe symptoms of cough, runny nose and air pain.
– You observe a discharge of pus or blood from the ear.
– The pain is severe and doesn’t diminish.
If you have any doubt see you doctor as soon as possible.
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