Ear infections in children are the most common reason for visits to the pediatrician.
Ear infections were a regular part of my life as a kid. I was a competitive swimmer, so swimmer’s ear was a common occurrence. Instead of using antibiotics, our family used DIY natural home remedies which worked miracles and helped me avoid medications.
Presently, I rarely get an ear infection and neither do my children. When we do, these natural home remedies for ear infections work for us overnight and we’ve been able to avoid unnecessary antibiotics medication. I have 5 children under the age of 8 – none of them have ever had an antibiotic for an ear infection!
What Is An Ear Infection?
An ear infection occurs when an infection takes place in the middle ear, where fluid can easily build up in the airspace. They often accompany a common cold or respiratory illness since the middle ear is connected to the upper respiratory tract. Germs that grow in the nose or sinus area can easily move to the middle ear, reside in extra fluid, and cause an infection.
For this reason, ear infections are very common with babies and children. They are the reason that over 30 million pediatric visits take place every year. Almost half of the antibiotic prescriptions written for children are for an ear infection, according to this article by WebMD.
Symptoms of Ear Infections in Children
There are a number of symptoms that can indicate an ear infection in children. They include:
- tugging at the ear
- disrupted sleep schedule
- decreased appetite
- ear drainage
These symptoms can be challenging to diagnose as an ear infection. If your child has a cold, fighting allergies, or is teething, it might be easier to determine that he/she might have an ear infection with these symptoms.
Alternatives to Antibiotic Use
More studies and news outlets are reporting that the over usage of antibiotics is actually more harmful for our immune systems. Today Fox News released this video news report on the ineffectiveness of antibiotics in ear infection cases. This report shows that more and more people are wanting natural home remedies that are effective in treating ear infections.
Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections. Ear infections are both bacterial and viral infections and can typically clear up on their own with a few days. Antibiotics will not even work on viral infections in the ear, so most of the time it’s more effective to treat them with home remedies. Let’s jump in and take a closer look at these natural remedies that have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, making them effective alternatives to antibiotics.
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Natural Home Remedies for Ear Infections In Children
1. Garlic Oil
Garlic contains allicin, an anti-microbial property that works against infection and helps soothe ear pain and swelling. Garlic oil also has anti-viral and anti-oxidizing properties, making this my go-to home remedy!
There are many ways to use garlic in general, but my favorite is simply having Mullein Garlic Oil on hand at all times. No worries about crushing garlic cloves; this oil is simple and easy to use immediately.
- Repeat Drop 1-2 drops of mullein garlic oil in ear (warmed, if possible).
- Cover with cotton ball. several times daily.
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils are a must to have on hand for many ailments. They have been very effective in helping treat ear infections. Between the mullein garlic oil and essential oils, we’ve reduced ear infections down to 1-2 days.
It’s important to exercise caution when using essential oils with children. Essential oils are so powerful that they may cause many reactions when applied topically. For this reason, my go-to oils for ear infections in my kids are tea tree and lavender. These two oils are safe to use when diluted to 1% on babies and children.
Tea Tree – Tea tree oil is one of the most common oils to cure ear infections. It fights the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that caused the infection in the first place. Tea tree oil contains terpinene-4-ol, which fights the infection by increasing the number of white blood cells in your system.
Lavender – Lavender oil is known for its pain relief, relaxation, soothing and calming effects. It also has antibacterial properties which helps fight infection and pain. We are never without Lavender in our medicine cabinet (aka my essential oils rack!) – it’s a universal oil we use for everything!
- Fill a 10ml roller bottle with a carrier oil, either almond or coconut oil.
- Add 2 drops of Tea Tree or Lavender oil to the roller bottle (I usually make two separate bottles).
- Rub the roller tip on the outside of the ear, in front and behind the ear.
I know there are a variety of places to buy essential oils. My favorite suppliers are Rocky Mountain Oils, Plant Therapy, and above all, the store that first manufactured oils for medicinal purposes!
3. Magic Salt Rock Sock
I used a version of this home remedy the last time I had an ear infection and it was very helpful! All you need is coarse sea salt and a white cotton salt. Do NOT use colored socks – the colored fabric is flammable and a potential fire hazard when heated. When the warm salt in a sock is applied to the ear and jawline of the infected ear, it provides relief from the pain. You can heat the salt sock in the oven or on the stovetop (I personally would NOT recommend the microwave, since it heats too fast and not evenly).
You will need:
1 long white tube sock
1-1.5 cups of course sea salt (you can also use Epsom salts)
1-2 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
Method #1 – Oven
- Fill sock with salt, leaving room to tie a knot at the end.
- Put in oven, set to 350 degrees.
- When oven reaches 350 degrees, take the sock out. It should be warm enough.
- Put 1-2 drops of lavender oil on the sock, if you desire, and place on infected ear.
Method #2 – Stovetop
- Fill sock with salt, tie off at the end.
- Place sock in pan on the stove and heat on medium/low. Turn often to avoid burning.
- When warm enough, place on ear for relief.
This might not be the best smelling home remedy, but it’s effective in treating ear infections. Onion is long known for its healing properties in fighting inflammation and reducing the horrible pain that comes with ear infections. Onion is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory in nature.
Now thankfully, you don’t have to hold a raw onion to your screaming child’s ear! Instead, the juice of an onion can be used medicinally.
- Place raw onion on a cookie sheet.
- Bake in oven at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, no pre-heating necessary.
- Take onion out, allow to cool enough to handle.
- Cut onion in half and squeeze onion juice into a glass container.
- Using a medicine dropper, use several drops of onion juice in the infected ear. Keep head tilted to the side for a few minutes to allow the onion juice to drain.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most popular home remedies for ear infections. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar gives it anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that fight the growth of bacteria in the ear canal.
- Mix apple cider vinegar with warm water, both equal parts.
- Drop several drops in the infected ear or place a soaked cotton ball and leave in the ear for 5 minutes.
6. Colloidal Silver
I’ve recently begun turning to colloidal silver for many ailments in our house! Silver is a microbial antibiotic that is a very powerful anti-bacterial solution. It can also treat any fungal infection as it’s an anti-fungal solution as well. This is a very valuable home remedy that I now have in my natural medicine cabinet.
- Place 2-3 drops in infected ear.
- Keep head tilted to the side for a few minutes to allow liquid to drop down.
- Repeat several times a day or as needed.
7. Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry syrup has naturally antiviral properties and is wonderful for strengthening the immune system. This helps speed up the recovery from the infection.
You can make your own syrup, which isn’t that difficult. This recipe from the Wellness Mama is one of my favorites!
There’s a reason breastmilk is called liquid gold. Scientists are discovering more and more about the “miraculous” healing properties of breastmilk. So it’s no surprise that breastmilk is often used in treating ear infections in babies and children!
Obviously, you need to be a breastfeeding mother to have a supply of breastmilk on hand. Or maybe you know a mom that is breastfeeding and are able to get an ounce or two from her. Hopefully you are able to access some breastmilk because the powerful anti-septic effects of this living fluid is worth it!
- Simply express some milk in a small bowl and place several drops in the ear.
- Repeat as often as desired.
9. Warm Compress
This is the most basic go-to remedy that you can do in combination with the above home remedies. This can help temporarily soothe the sharp pain of the ear infection. You simply wet a wash cloth with hot water, wring it out and apply to the ear. The heat will help blood circulate in the ear to relieve pain.
*I want to clarify I am not a doctor or professional healthcare physician. I’m just a mom of 5 kids that has firsthand seen the benefits of holistic home remedies. I personally believe in the benefits of homeopathic medicine but, again, I am not a healthcare provider. Earaches and infections can become very serious and I recommend that you use your best judgement and own intuition when treating. Consult a trusted physician if you are ever in doubt.