My children have had a few ear infections throughout the years. I’m usually able to ward the pain off quickly. A warm compress, some garlic mullein oil, and an ear massage usually do the trick. Within one to two hours my children are usually up and playing. I then make sure to ramp up their immunity with good foods and supplements to fight the infection.
I write usually because this season has been different. My two older boys haven’t had an ear infection in quite some time. My Little Mama, on the other hand, had her first ear infection this past November. Her infection was similar to what I’ve experienced in the past with my older boys. Within a half hour, she felt fine and quickly fought the infection. Just a couple weeks ago, however, she again fell ill with a standard cold but this time the built up congestion led to a double ear infection. I tried all my home remedies that usually work, but this time the pain wouldn’t subside.
Mama’s, ear infections can be a bit frightening and downright stressful when we have a little one screaming from debilitating ear pain; all the while, we’re running around like a mad woman trying anything and everything to soothe their pain. With swirling thoughts of ear ruptures and hearing loss, it’s no wonder ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to see a doctor.
Natural Remedies to Heal Ear Infections
Normally, when I’m able to get the pain of an ear infection to subside, I keep the child at home. This time, with such persistent pain, I took my daughter to the doctor’s office so they could take a good look at her ear and tell me what type of infection she had. I wanted to make sure it was a middle ear infection and that there were no ruptures in the eardrum.
Middle Ear Infections
Inflammation in the middle ear is known as acute otitis media (AOM). Kids between the ages of 2 to 4 are more susceptible to AOM especially when they get an upper respiratory infection. One of the reasons is that their eustachian tubes, which connects the ear to the nose canal, are shorter and more horizontal than those of adults and therefore, unable to drain the ear well. When a child falls ill with a common cold, their eustachian tube can become inflamed trapping fluid and nasal congestion within the middle ear, settling behind the eardrum. This is usually where the bacterial or viral infection occurs and causes pain as the pressure of the built up fluid pushes against the eardrum.
Once I visited the doctor, I was told that it was a middle ear infection without any ruptures. I was then sent home with a prescription for ibuprofen every six hours for two days (or until the pain stops) and a round of antibiotics for 10 days.
Now Mama’s, this is where we praise the Lord that we were able to get a good diagnosis from a trained professional. We now have the opportunity to take the information they’ve shared with us and compare it to some of the facts we know about ear infections to decide if we should treat the infection at home or fill the prescription.
Let’s dig into the facts!
Facts about Middle Ear Infections
- Antibiotics are over prescribed for ear infections. In fact, ear infections are usually caused by viruses so antibiotics will not help at all.
- Using antibiotics for an ear infection can lead to more ear infections (read here) starting a vicious cycle, often, leading to ear tube surgery.
- Ear infections can be misdiagnosed (read here).
- Approximately 80% of kids with acute otitis media get better without antibiotics in 2-7 days! The latest guidelines from the Academy of Medicine are now being encouraged to not over prescribe antibiotics for ear infections. Instead, they are recommending the wait-and-see approach.
The Wait and See Approach
Mama’s, I understand, it can still be difficult making the decision to treat your child from home. When I start to worry and wonder if I can trust myself to treat my child at home, I like to turn to my online functional medical doctor, Aviva Romm. She has the sweetest way of comforting a weary mama right from a computer screen. You can check out her articles on ear infections here and here and be reminded that our bodies have an amazing ability to heal.
If you hop on over to Aviva’s website, you’ll see her recommendations for when to visit a doctor, when antibiotics are needed, and when a wait and see approach is best.
My daughter fell into the wait and see approach. I felt comfortable to treat her at home and see if we could get her earache to subside and her fever to break within 48-72 hours.
Natural Remedies to Heal Ear Infections
NOTE: DO NOT PUT ANYTHING INTO THE EAR CANAL IF YOU SUSPECT THE EAR DRUM HAS RUPTURED OR IF THERE IS ANY DRAINAGE FROM THE EAR.
These are my personal go-to remedies to soothe ear pain and heal ear infections naturally. With my daughter, right away, I started the following treatments.
Garlic Mullein Oil
My go to remedy to soothe ear pain and to start fighting the infection within is using a few drops of warmed garlic mullein oil (like this one), in each ear. To warm it up, I fill a cup with hot water and place the small bottle of oil in the cup. After a few minutes, it should be warm enough, not hot, to place in the ear canal and soothe the pain. I keep it in each ear for 7 minutes. For the first day or so, I use it about every two hours. As the pain subsides, I continue this treatment 3 times a day for about 3-6 days.
If you don’t have a store-bought bottle of garlic mullein, you can make your own garlic oil at home. The garlic is the main ingredient addressing the infection as it’s a natural antimicrobial. Simply press or chop 1-2 cloves of garlic into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and mix together. Allow the garlic and oil to infuse for about 10 minutes and then gently heat the oil, making sure to not cook or brown the garlic. It just takes a few minutes. Once it’s warmed and smells of garlic, it’s ready to go. Strain the oil using a piece of cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or napkin. Make sure the oil cools down and that it’s warm, not hot, and use as explained above.
When any of my children start to complain of an earache, after soothing the ear with garlic mullein oil, I reach for a warm compress. I have honestly saved a microwave oven in my basement specifically for this reason. It can be as simple as a sock filled with rice heated in a microwave oven or a damp washcloth heated. I place it right over their ear onto the side of their neck. The warmth and moisture from the compress can help with the drainage alleviating the pain. I’ll continue with the warm compress until the pain subsides.
Garlic Salve with Massage
To help soothe the pain and help fight the infection, I use a homemade garlic salve that I always have on hand. This will get a post all of its own because I use it often, for many ailments.
Again, in the garlic salve, it’s the garlic that’s doing most of the work. For ear infections, I rub it behind my children’s ear, all the way down their jawline, and into their neck. I then pull on the bottom of their ear, down to their earlobes, in a circular motion, always pulling down. I then rub behind the ear and down the neck. By doing this, I’m trying to increase the blood circulation and help in drainage. I also rub some of the garlic salve onto the bottom of their feet and then cover with socks as it works by absorption through the skin as well.
Here’s a simple recipe I learned from Be Your Own Doctor, a book every Mama should own!
Garlic salve is a potent antibacterial and antiviral. It works by direct application and absorption through the skin. Every mother should have this on hand!
- In a blender mix all ingredients together.
- Strain and place into a small jar.
- Refrigerate to harden.
- Store in refrigerator.
Good for 2 weeks, stored in the refrigerator.
No, this one is not a natural remedy but I wanted to keep it real. Tylenol helped us get through this time. I’m not keen on using a lot of Tylenol in my home and we do not use ibuprofen, however, with my daughter, her ear pain came back in the middle of the night. She was exhausted from a full day of round-the-clock treatments. She needed rest. After all, rest is necessary for the body to heal and for our immunity to stay strong. I gave her a dose of Tylenol and it helped soothe her pain which allowed her to get a good 5 hours of undisturbed sleep.
One reason I’m not keen on using Tylenol is that I didn’t want it to lower her fever as I know it’s necessary to fight her infection from within. I had to make that decision though and being that she had a low fever, I decided to use it so so that she could get some much-needed rest.
Once I’ve soothed the pain and applied my natural remedies to fight the infection, it’s time to ramp up their immune system to really knock the bad guys out of the park!
One of my go to’s during this season to ramp up their immunity is elderberry syrup. I have a recipe here for how to make it using freshly picked elderberries; however, you may find it easier to buy it already made here. Over the past few years, I’ve been using this recipe to make it with dried elderberries and I love Aviva Romm’s recipe that includes echinacea.
Supplements and Nourishing Food
One of the best ways to make sure your children can fight the infection quickly is to make sure they’re taking a good multi-vitamin and eating good nourishing foods. My children take this multivitamin and fish oil daily. As soon as I see signs of sniffles, I cut out all sugar and dairy, and then I fill them up on nourishing broth, eggs, toast, and unsweetened applesauce.
I also like to make sure they’re getting some good probiotics into their gut so I’ll make sure they’re eating fermented vegetables like this saurkraut or pickles and I’ll also treat them to some kombucha tea.
Oh No! My Child’s Eardrum Ruptured!
This just happened to me for the first time. My daughter’s ears were coming along quite nicely. On the third morning of our third day of treatment, I noticed some drainage from my daughter’s ear. It was blood. I knew right away that I needed to stop with the garlic mullein oil. I did continue with the garlic salve around her ear and neck and supplements as written about above.
The first thing I did was text three of my good friends. Call your girlfriends, mama’s! They can be the encouragement you need! I always have my besties, Bethany, Mare, and Tara on speed dial. They shared with me that an eardrum rupture is not uncommon and is a way for the body to lessen the pressure. I calmed down because, yes, I was starting to worry. I was then informed that eardrums heal nicely and quickly on their own. At this point, my daughter’s ear pain was gone and her fever had broken. Her fever never reached over 101F so I wasn’t too worried. I did, however, decide that I wanted to start her on chiropractic care.
Chiropractor Care for Ear Infections
I decided on chiropractic care for two reasons. Now that her eardrum ruptured, I wanted a professional to look at her eardrum and let me know how it looked. Secondly, this was her second time to have an ear infection this cold and flu season. I’ve read many great things about chiropractic care and how regular adjustments can ward off ear infections. I do not want to battle another infection.
According to Dr. Haggerton, “The lymph nodes need properly functioning muscles to contract with your baby’s head movements in order to flush out lymph fluid and congestion that pools in the area. If the bones in the top of your baby’s neck become restricted (due to birth, or any other type of physical stressor), the muscles around that area cannot contract and work correctly. If the muscles don’t contract perfectly, then the body has a hard time flushing out the fluid in the ear canals. Adjustments also boost the immune system and help the body to function optimally. Read more research on chiropractic and ear infections here.” (source)
My Little Mama has been going in for regular adjustments and is doing well. Her rupture is healing nicely and she is just smitten with Doctor Jessica pulling on her ears and turning her power on!
One thing to remember, Mama, is that every child is affected by natural treatments differently. What works for one child, may not work for another. Also, natural treatments can take longer to take effect. So try different remedies and remember that you have time.Symptoms should subside within 48-72 hours.
One thing that always encourages me is to remember that just because we are not giving our children allopathic medicine does not mean we are not treating our children. As you can tell from above, we most certainly are but are using natural methods instead. Just be aware, your household will smell of garlic for a good week or so 😉
What are some natural remedies for ear infections that you use in your home? Share what’s worked best for you and your family in the comments below.
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