Earache is very common in kids between 6 months to 3 years of age, in fact 5 out of 6 kids in U.S are diagnosed with ear infection by the time they’re 3. Learn what cause it, sign and symptoms plus get home remedies for Earache relief.
Earache often follow a cold. During the winter season, it feels like that kids are sick every week with cold or nasal congestion or cough or earaches. Trip to doctor’s office increases during winter season, in hope to get a quick relief for earache, unfortunately it isn’t that easy.
Doctors today are less likely to prescribe antibiotics as germ that cause ear infections are becoming resistant. The most recent American Academy of pediatrics guidelines recommends wait-and-see approach unless there is an obvious ear infection – a very bulging tympanic membrane (eardrum). If a child is older than 2 and isn’t running a fever of 102°F or higher, wait at least 48 hours before starting antibiotics as most infections will resolve on their own within 10 days.
According to CDC, antibiotics are not recommended for most ear infection. Overuse of antibiotics for kid’s ear infections can end up causing antibiotic-resistance and gut flora imbalance causing diarrhea and vomiting.
My elder son had a frequent ear infection during winter season. It was so painful for him that it was hard for us to see him suffer. We used to run to the doctor to get an antibiotic, instead, our doctor suggested warm compresses, frequent breastfeeding, few drops of breastmilk in the ear before trying anything else.
I am so grateful that he suggested wait-and-see approach before prescribing an antibiotic. Most of the time (antibiotic was prescribed once) his earache was gone in 2-3 days with the pain management and use of breastmilk in the ear.
I researched further and found out other very effective home remedies for earache relief when breastfeeding or drops of breastmilk wasn’t as option for me anymore.
Before we jump into home remedies for earache relief, Let’s learn what causes it, sign and symptoms and prevention strategies.
In this post, we will talk about
- What is an earache?
- What causes an ear infection?
- Sign and symptoms
- Home remedies for earache relief
- Plus, how to prevent ear infection?
What is an earache or ear infection?
An ear infection (called Otitis Media) is an inflammation of the middle ear, can be caused by viruses or bacteria, that occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum. There are three types of ear infections.
- Otitis Externa often known as a swimmer’s ear, occurs when the outer ear canal is infected, which is different from a middle ear infection.
- Acute otitis media (AOM) is an infection in the middle ear and is the most common ear infection (we will be talking about this here). It occurs when parts of the middle ear are infected, and fluid is accumulated behind the eardrum.
- Inner ear infection usually caused by a virus and are very rare. It is characterized as inflammation of the structures of the inner ear. Inner ear infections cause symptoms such as ringing of the ears (tinnitus) and balance disruption (vertigo). Usually inner ear infection requires medical treatment
What causes an earache or ear infection?
The middle ear infection is caused by bacteria or viruses. This infection often follows another illness- cold, flu or allergy — that causes congestion and swelling of the nasal passages and throat. An ear infection is caused by clogging of the eustachian tube (see pic below) due to swelling, inflammation or fluid builds up in the ear, therefore pressurizing the eardrum [source].
The children are most susceptible to get an ear infection because the eustachian tubes are narrower and more horizontal, making it more likely to get clogged and difficult to drain. Also, swelling and irritation of adenoids (two small pads of tissue near the opening of eustachian tubes) – which are larger in children than adults- is likely to play a role in ear infection in children.
Signs and Symptoms of an Earache
Children exhibit following signs of earache
- Tugging or pulling at an ear
- Crying more than usual
- Loss of appetite
- Poor sleep
- Ear pain – when lying down due to fluid shifting
- Fever 100 F or higher
- Trouble hearing
- Drainage from the ear- Yellow, brown or white fluid oozing from the year, may suggest ruptured eardrum.
Common signs and symptoms in adults include:
- Ear pain
- Trouble hearing
- Drainage from the ear
Home Remedies for Earache Relief
While we all agree to wait-and-see approach for earache, it doesn’t mean that you let your kid suffer. In the meanwhile, you might want to consider home remedies for earache relief. I’ve been using home remedies for my kids for last 8 years and I can proudly say that it worked all the time with little dedication and patience.
With the combination of following approaches (some are tested by us and some worked for lots of people), earache usually resolved by 48 hours most of the time.
Before we move on to home remedies, a quick safety note: If the eardrum is perforated (ruptured), NOTHING should be put in the ear. Ear infections can cause the eardrum to rupture in roughly 10 percent of cases (source). One way to find out if your eardrum is perforated is to watch out for yellow, brown, white fluid (not earwax) draining out of the ear.
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Another way to find out what is going on inside ear is, use of mini otoscope. It is a great tool to see what is going on inside your little one’s ear. Whether it is earwax or ear infection, attach this mini otoscope to your iPhone and have a look inside your little one’s ear. It also allows you to record the images of eardrum for professional advice.
Without further ado, here are home remedies for earache relief
For Pain management:
1. Warm Compresses:
When your little one or adult complains about earache, first thing to do is apply warm compresses. No brainer, right!! It helps to get the lymphatic fluid moving and easing the discomfort of earaches.
Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel (make sure temperature is okay to avoid burning) and let your child sleep on it. You can also make your own hot compress using old soak. Filled it with popcorn or salt or rice and microwave it until warm and apply it to your child’s ear as needed.
Warm compress works wonder for some people. For others, alternating hot and cold packs (20 minutes hot, followed by 20 minutes cold) provides the best earache relief.
2. Fluid Swallowing:
Swallowing, yawing and chewing are known to remove fluid out of the eustachian tube, thereby relieving pressure and reducing earache (source). Breastfed babies can be fed more often to reduce ear pain. Older kids can chew gum or hard candy to relive pressure from ear.
3. Ear massage:
Gentle massage around the jaw near ear can help reduce earache by draining excess fluid from the affected ear and prevent pain getting worse.
Apply gentle massage with or without essential oil in a downward motion behind the ear down the neck (lower jaw) and continue toward the front of the ear.
Check out this video by pediatrician showing how to massage to get relief from ear pain.
4. Sleeping position:
Sleeping with the affected ear on the pillow will aggravate earache. To help ear drain better, sleep with the affected ear raised. Also, elevating head with extra pillow will help with pain.
You can give your children Tylenol or Advil if needed. For mild temperature avoid Tylenol, as fever is a natural way of fighting infection.
I prefer herbal compound over medication when my kids really need something for pain relief. Children herbal compound is milder and safer than Tylenol. You won’t see instant effect as you see with medication, but they are very soothing and helps with fever symptoms. You can try this one: Herb Pharm Herbal Supplement
For Ear infection:
7. Garlic-Mullein Herbal Ear drops
The classic, natural remedy for ear infection is warm olive oil mixed with garlic and mullein. After using this remedy, you most probably won’t have to look for any other remedies for ear infection. As garlic is a natural antimicrobial and antiviral (source) to fight against bacterial or viral infection, and Mullein is an analgesic helps relieve the pain associated with earache.
A double-blinded study published in Journal of Pediatrics 2003 also shows the effectiveness of Garlic-Mullein based herbal ear drops over antibiotic + herbal ear drops in treatment of acute otitis media (source).
You can find Garlic – Mullein oil here or you can make it at home if you prefer.
You can use 3-6 drops of Garlic-Mullein oil in the affected ear 2-3 times a day ( I used it 2 times a day and pain was gone, it is that effective). Use this oil at room temperature or warm (check the temperature before use). Once you put drops in affected ear, let your child rest affected ear up for 10 min with hot water bottle or compress on the ear. After 10 min, let your child rest with hot water bottle as long as he feels comfortable.
8. Ginger oil:
Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties and it can help relieve earache. You can apply ginger juice directly on outer ear canal. You can also make ginger oil by warming olive oil with ginger in it then strain it. Ginger juice and ginger oil should only be used OUTSIDE ear canal for massage. Do NOT put directly into the ear. You can try this one: Ginger essential oil
9. Apple Cider Vinegar:
Seems like that Apple cider Vinegar is the universal solution for the all kind of pain. It can also work for your earache. Make 1:1 solution of rubbing alcohol and apple cider vinegar and put 2-3 drops in to affected ear with dropper or cotton ball. Acidity of vinegar keeps bacterial from growing while rubbing alcohol traps the water from ear canal and evaporates, thereby drying ear (source). Although, this remedy has been used for swimmer’s ear but also works for relieving earache.
10. Elderberry – Echinacea – Ginger blend (Elderberry syrup)
For those who want to support immune system naturally, elderberry – echinacea- ginger bled are excellent choice. I give my kids as a preventive measure (1 tsp – 2 years and above) when they are most vulnerable for ear infection or cold or flu (mostly start of fall season). I also give them at the start of respiratory infection (½-1 tsp/3-4 times a day).
Elderberries are very high in Vitamin A and C, Echinacea boosts body’s defence against cold (source)
and ginger is anti-inflammatory, all together these bled make an excellent remedy to prevent or fight against respiratory tract infection.
To make this,
1 cup of Elderberry
1/3 cup of Echinacea
2 inches of chopped ginger
3 cups of water
1 cup of raw honey
Mix these ingredients in saucepan, boil it and then simmer for ½ hour. Let it cool and strain in glass container. Add in 1 cup of raw honey. Store it in cool and dark area. Avoid honey if you are giving it to babies under 1 year.
How to Prevent Ear Infection?
Here are sure-fire tips for preventing ear infection in your kids.
- Breastfeed your baby
- If you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, do it at 45-degree angle
- Avoid breastfeeding baby in her side.
- Avoid put your baby to bed with bottle.
- Avoid pacifier if possible.
- Reduce chance of catching cold by adopting proper hygiene technique (washing hand frequently)
- Don’t smoke or keep your child away from second-hand smoke exposure, as it increases the risk of ear infections.
- Keep your children away from juice, sugar, junk food if they are prone to ear infection (at least at the start and couple of days after infection)
- Use herbs such as Elderberry – Echinacea blend to boost immunity in your children.
- Include supplements – Kid’ multivitamins with zinc and daily probiotics in your kids’ diet.
When to Call a Doctor
Regardless of how long your child’s ear has been hurting, call the pediatrician immediately if your child has a
- Fever 102.2°F (39°C) or higher
- Severe pain,
- Draining from the ear
- Sudden hearing loss
- Stiff neck
- Symptoms of middle ear infection last more than 2-3 days
Earaches are one of the most common conditions in early childhood. While there is nothing to worry about it and waiting patiently will usually get rid of earache, but it can make you miserable.
Some of the remedies that I have listed here are evidence based, while others have been based on its empirical use from certain cultures around the world.
Natural remedies work safely, effectively, and quickly for ear infections in children and adult. I hope you feel empowered to try some of these home remedies for earache relief next time you hit with one!!
How about You?
What are your tips for dealing with earache? Please leave a comment below.
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Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease. It is also not a replacement for proper medical care provided by a licensed practitioner. You are responsible for your healthcare.