Natural Remedies for Ear infections in Kids
Ear aches in children are a very common in children, in fact, it is the most common reason for child's visits to the pediatrician in the United States. Acute otitis media (AOM) is the typical painful ear infection that kids get that often presents with colds and fevers. This is the type of ear infection we will be discussing in this blog. AOM often makes children and babies alike very irritable and fussy as AOM can be fairly painful. Usually, the child will start out with a cold and a fever and a few days later start to tug on their ear and cry out suddenly or report to you that they are having ear pain. Ear infections can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections however are much more likely to be caused by viral infections. Although antibiotics may absolutely be necessary at times for some cases, treating an mild viral ear infection with antibiotics can lead to antibiotic reactions and resistant infections in the child. About 80 % of children with ear infections get better without antibiotics in 2-7 days. However, I always recommend seeing a doctor as antibiotics may be necessary when the following are present:
There is drainage from the ear
Your child is under 6 months old
There is neck pain or stiffness
There is pain that won’t resolve
There is high fever (> 39 C or 102.2 F) and persistent ear pain
Pain in the bone behind the ear (this could be a medical emergency and needs to be seen ASAP)
Even if your child doesn't have the above symptoms but you are worried about your child or they seem very sick, it is always a good idea to check in with your Doctor. The goal of this article however is to provide some information on natural remedies for ear infections that may help the ear heal naturally, heal ear infections faster or prevent the need for antibiotics, especially in mild and uncomplicated cases. If you try some natural remedies at home, but after a day or two symptoms are not getting better, or if they are getting worse, this is also a sign that you would need to see a doctor. As always, the following is for informational purposes only. It is always best you speak with your health care provider first to see if the natural remedies below are right for your child.
Herbs for Ear Infections and Earaches & Herbal Ear Drops
Garlic Mullein Ear Drops
On the first sign of earache or infection I put a few drops of herbal ear oil into the affected ear every 3-4 hours. The classic mixture of natural ear drops contains garlic and mullein. Research has shown that garlic mullein ear drops provide pain relief, reduce inflammation in the ear and can help kill both viruses and bacteria in the ear. I always make sure to warm the bottle first by running it under warm water or rubbing the bottle in my hands. It is important to note that ear drops should not be used if you notice any fluid or liquid draining from the ear or if you suspect a ruptured ear drum (you would need to see your doctor if this is happening!). Some natural ear drop formulas may also contain calendula and/or st.johns wort, which may provide some added benefit.
As AOM often presents at the same time as a cold, using herbs that help fight off viruses and bacteria in the body can be helpful. Make sure to always check the label and dose the herbs based on your child's age and weight.
Elberberry, also known as Sambucus, has been shown to help fight bacteria and viruses that cause flu like symptoms and may help to shorten the duration of an illness. Elderberry can be found in a syrup or in dried berries that you can prepare in a tea. Most children like the sweet pleasant taste of elderberry.
My go to herb for cough and colds, echinacea is a tried and true remedy to help reduce the duration of an illness and fight off cold and flu. It can also be found in syrup, tinctures or teas. Make sure to always check the labels and echinacea can be paired with other herbs that may not be appropriate for children in some formulas. Echinacea is not as pleasant tasting as elderberry and often I mix this herb with a little honey (in children over 1) or maple syrup.
Other herbal teas (taken warm or cool) such as chamomile, lemon balm or peppermint may be soothing and relaxing to the child. Certain children find teas very calming and can be helpful when dealing with pain.
Homeopathy for Ear Infections
Certain homeopathic remedies for ear pain and earache may be helpful.
Ferrum Phosphoricum 9Ch or 30Ch may help reduce pain and targets the ear drum. This remedy is often best used on the very first sign of ear pain. This remedy is also historically used to treat mild fevers.
Belladonna 30Ch, used if Ferrum Phos does not work. Also used for sudden onset of ear pain with a fever and a hot, red face
Hepar Sulph 30Ch: typically used for "swimmers ear" however may also be helpful in AOM, used when the child is very sensitive to everything.
Arsenicum Album 30Ch used for burning ear pain, better with hot compresses.
Other Home Remedies for Ear Infection
Onion Ear Compresses
For centuries, onions have been used to help congestion, cold and earaches. Onions contain high amounts of sulphur compounds which may help to clear the infection and may aid in pain relief. An age old remedy is to apply onion right to the ear of the child and leave it in place for as long as possible while the child rests lying down. Many children (and adults alike) report this to be soothing.
•1 onion (I like purple onion as it is highest in sulphur)
•A hat or scarf to hold the onion in place.
•Compress cloth (a cheesecloth or thin sheet folded 8”x16”)
1.Cut up the onion into small pieces.
2.Warm the pieces in a little water- easiest is in a skillet.
3.Put the warm onion into the compress cloth making sure it is not too hot!
4.Fold it into a package and then use an elastic keep the onion in the cloth.
5.Put the onion compress over the ear and the bone behind the ear (mastoid bone)
6.Put a hat over the compress or wrap a scarf around the head to keep the compress in place.
7.Leave in place for as long as possible, ideally at least 20-30 minutes.
Hot water bottle (wrapped in a towel)
Making sure the hot water bottle is not too hot, let the child rest or sleep on a water bottle wrapped in a towel (to avoid burning the child). Do not fill the water bottle up too much as it will not be as comfortable for child compared to a partially full water bottle. Heating pads are not advisable .
Preventing Ear Infections in Children
Research has shown that probiotics can help support the immune system in children, reducing sick days, need for antibiotics and may help reduce the number of ear infections. Children who often get ear infections may benefit from using a broad spectrum probiotic
Food Sensitivities and Ear Infections
Chronic ear infections may also be a sign of an un-diagnosed food sensitivity or intolerance. Common offending foods may be dairy, gluten or food additives. I have clinically seen an improvement in a few cases of chronic ear infections after the removal of dairy from the child's diet.
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