As I mentioned a few posts back, I’m revamping and editing some of my older medical advice posts and updating everything. This is another post from 2011! Can’t believe I’ve been blogging for over 7 years! I hope you find this helpful or file it away for future reference!
Do you know any kids who have never had an earache or infection? This seems to be a rite of passage for young kids. Unfortunately it is assumed that we need to rush our kids to the Dr as soon as possible so that we can get that antibiotic that is necessary to rid the infection. We fear that our child might have permanent hearing loss or a ruptured eardrum if we don’t act quickly enough.
I have some good news! There is so much you can do at home to help and you don’t need to rush to the pediatrician right away! Often the cause of most ear infections is from upper respiratory infections (URI). The eustachian tube drains fluid off the ear and down into the throat. This tube is much smaller in children than adults and is easily clogged with congestion when fighting an URI. I know there is much speculation that maybe too many vaccines, bottle feeding as opposed to breastfeeding, second hand smoke and more might contribute to the increased incidence of ear infections. Whether this is true or not, most ear aches resolve on their own within 72 hours.
Also, to note, earache and ear infection are two different things. An earache is often caused when there is fluid backed up in the ear. It could be from swimming, getting water in the ear or from an URI that has caused back from the clogged eustachian tube. Just because there is pain does NOT mean there is an infection. However, if the fluid sits there long enough without draining, it WILL get infected. So get the fluid to drain and you can ward off the infection.
Also the traditional treatment is to prescribe antibiotics, but more than half of ear infections are NOT bacterial and therefore an antibiotic would have no effect whatsoever. OR, you can clear the infection, but that doesn’t cause the fluid to drain, so if it still sits there and continues not to drain it will just become infected again and will need a repeat course of antibiotics. The best thing you can do is treat the symptoms with some of the remedies below and offer lots of hugs and kisses and comfort. Some of these options are a little more holistic and natural than others. So read through them, contemplate it and do what you think is best for your child. I also don’t want to undermine the parental intuition. If you are worried about your child and think he needs to be evaluated by a health professional then by all means do so. You know your child best.
If you want to gives some of these options a try. Give it a go and let me know how it goes for you and dear loved little one!
Pseudoephedrine: I don’t really prefer conventional medications, but this has been extremely helpful for us. I usually give about a ½ dose once a day while my kids have a URI to help lessen the chance of them getting an infection. We were advised to do this by our midwife and it has really worked. Only once have I had the start of an ear infection with any of my three kids and it was the one time we hadn’t used the pseudoephedrine. (I don’t do this anymore, I only use holistic options unless absolutely necessary. Bur for those that prefer more traditional medicine, this is a great first choice. I probably haven’t used pseudoephedrine since I wrote this post!)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil): Again, I try not to use these medications due to the amount of chemicals, sugar, artificial coloring and flavorings. Also, fever reducers aren’t NEEDED for fevers. A fever is a good thing; it means the immune system is functioning and trying to fight off some sort of infection. If you feel like you are unable to help the fever or ear pain with using other treatments, then by all means use it. Again, whatever you decide to use.
Warm compress: There are a couple of different ways to do this. You can wrap some rice in a cheesecloth and heat it in the microwave, washcloth under hot water, or a heating pad. Just be careful that the rice or the wash cloth isn’t too hot that it could burn the skin. Hold the compress to the ear and it will help lessen the pain. It can also melt ear wax that might be pressing on the eardrum and causing increased pain. And the heat can help clear the eustachian tube as well.
Broiled Onion: Bake an onion at 350 degrees until soft. Place in a glass jar and put the opening of the jar over the ear. The warmth will help the pain and something about the onion has been said to help as well. If the onion is somewhat cooled you can wrap it in a cheese cloth and place it over the ear as well. Personally I’ve never tried this, but I’ve heard it really works.
Breast milk: A few drops of breast milk in the affected ear 3-4 times a day will help to resolve the infection in 24-48 hours. I have used this, but I’ve also used the garlic oil and I feel the oil has worked better, but I’ve done both.
Sucking: Sucking also helps to unclog the eustachian tube. This would include a pacifier, nursing or bottle feeding for infants, or try using a straw or sippy cup for an older child, or sucking on an occluded straw. It is the same concept as trying to unclog your ears in the airplane.
Garlic Oil Ear drops: Here are instructions on how to make this at home, but it can also be purchased. I personally like the Herbs for Kids brand best when I need it in a pinch. We have used this and it worked very well. It was very soothing and my son actually liked having it put in his ears. I would then have him lay on my lap and I would read him a few books so that it would sit in and not drain out. I now keep this on hand at all times. I’ve never had it go bad.
Also be sure to heat the oil slightly before placing it in the ear. It should be a little warmer than room temperature. Heat a cup of water and then place the bottle in the water to let it warm slightly. If you don’t do this then it can cause increased pain, dizziness, nausea and sometimes vomiting if the liquid is cold.
Hydrogen peroxide: This is good to help clean out the ear canal before putting a homeopathic/herbal medication in the ear. Make a 50/50 mixture of warm distilled water and hydrogen peroxide. Using a bulb syringe rinse the ear out with the solution. Be sure the solution is warm (not hot) so that it doesn’t cause pain, dizziness or nausea. Be forewarned that if there is an open wound or scratch in the ear or swimmers ear, then it could cause some stinging. Although uncomfortable it is not dangerous.
Apple cider vinegar: This is more for preventing ear infections especially after swimming. Make a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and distilled water and place one drop in each ear after swimming.
Goldenseal and Echinacea: This can pretty easily be found as a combo herbal medication. Treat it like an antibiotic and only take it for 7-10 days and then stop taking it. We use this a lot and feel like it helps with any type of sickness.
Remove Diary: Dairy encourages mucus production. Removing diary will help to decrease the mucus production and help to thin the congestion.
Remove Sugar: Bacteria and yeast proliferate and feed off of sugar. By removing that from the diet it will starve the infection. Also sugar decreases the immune response, so removing it will have a twofold effect.
Melaleuca/Tea Tree Oil: This is one of my favorites! It has antibacterial and antifungal properties to it! Mix a few drops of tea tree oil in equal amounts of olive oil and put two to three drops in the infected ear. Please do not use this neat (without diluting). It is too strong and will probably produce a burning sensation. It this does occur, add more olive or coconut oil into the ear and it will help soothe the sensation.
Hopefully some of these ideas help relieve the pain and help cure the infection. From personal experience we have used all of these remedies (except one) and it has always been sufficient for us to get through the issue. None of my kids have ever been on an antibiotic yet. Please let me know what worked for you. Also, if you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them!
Medical Disclaimer: This information is meant to inform and not diagnose or treat illness or disease. Before trying any of the ideas posted please research for yourself in order to make an educated decision. Also, consult your doctor if trying to treat medical conditions.