Health Tips

9 Home Remedies For An Ear Infection

Having an earache due to an ear infection does not always mean that you need antibiotics. Instead, try these strategies at home to feel better.

Ear infections are not only painful, they can also take one to two weeks to completely heal, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. And taking a wait-and—see approach-that is, without antibiotics-is recommended for many children and adults suffering from ear infections. This is based on the guidelines published in the journal Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery in February 2016. Natural remedies can also help.

“There is no scientific data to support home remedies [for ear infections], but they can be soothing, and there could be a placebo effect,” says otolaryngologist Matthew Bush, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at the University of Kentucky Health Care in Lexington.

Here are 9 home remedies and over-the-counter treatments for earache

1. Olive oil

Olive oil has antibacterial properties, although there is no solid scientific evidence to prove that drops of olive oil in your ear canal can soothe ear pain. That said, putting a few drops of warmed olive oil in the ear is safe and may be worth a try.

It is always a good idea to discuss this method with your doctor first, especially for children. Make sure that the olive oil is not hotter than your body temperature by using a thermometer. This will help you avoid burning your eardrum.

2. Naturopathic drops

Naturopathic ear drops are made from plant extracts. They can be found online and in some pharmacies. An initial study revealed that drops containing plant extracts in an olive oil base could be just as effective, or even more, than traditional over-the-counter ear drops.

An old study from 2001 found that the use of these drops can lead to an improvement in ear pain levels. That said, a 2019 study suggests that they don’t necessarily help when it comes to treating ear infections.

3. Chiropractic treatment

If you go to the chiropractor for adjustments, you may find that your appointment can soothe your earache as much as your backache.

There are not many studies on the effectiveness of this. An older study from 2011 suggests that this could help, although how it works is not understood. The effectiveness will also depend on the cause of your pain, so it’s a good idea to consult a doctor first for a diagnosis.

4. Cold or warm compresses

People often use ice packs or warm compresses, such as a heating pad or a wet washcloth, to relieve pain. The same can be done for ear pain. This method is safe for both children and adults.

Place the ice pack or hot compress on the ear and alternate between hot and cold after 10 minutes. If you prefer cold or hot, you can use a single compress.

5. Over-the-counter pain relievers

You can use over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to control the pain associated with a painful type of ear infection called acute otitis media (OMA).

They can be safely used with or without antibiotics, but be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label. These medications can also help lower the fever.

Discuss with your doctor the appropriate dose for children. Children’s and infant versions are available for many over-the-counter pain relievers. It is dangerous for children under the age of 16 to take aspirin.

6. Sleep without putting pressure on the ear

Some sleeping positions will worsen the pain caused by ear infections, while others can help relieve it. Sleep with the affected ear raised instead of having it turned towards the pillow. This can help the ear to drain better if necessary.

You can also sleep with your head elevated by using additional pillows. It can also help the ears empty faster.

7. Garlic

Garlic has both antibiotic and analgesic properties. Soak the crushed garlic for several minutes in lukewarm olive or sesame oil. Drain the garlic and apply the oil to the ear canal.

8. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a natural remedy for earache, especially if the cause is a build-up of wax. To use this method of treatment, place several drops of hydrogen peroxide in the affected ear. Let it sit for several minutes before letting it drain into a sink. Rinse your ear with clean distilled water.

9. Distraction

If it is a child who is struggling with an earache, do your best to make him feel comfortable by forgetting about the pain.

You may want to:

• put on their favorite movie

• bring home a new coloring book

• have a bubble bath with lots of toys

• let them play a game on your phone or tablet

• pick up their favorite snack

• try to get them to focus on other things

If your child is of teething age, offer cooled teething toys to chew.

This method also works for adults. Treat yourself to a good book or a favorite movie to get rid of your earache.

When to use a home remedy

The best home remedy for an earache depends on the cause. If a cavity is to blame, your earache may not improve until you see a dentist. However, if it is an ear infection, using a natural remedy could make the disease bearable while your body fights the infection.

Be sure to check with your child’s pediatrician if your child has earache, especially if he/she is under 2 years old.

If your child has a high fever or if the fever lasts for more than a day, consult a doctor immediately. A high fever in children is defined as follows:

• infants less than 3 months old rectal 100.4ºF (38ºC) or greater

• children 3 months to 3 years old rectal 102ºF (38.9ºC) or greater

• children of any age oral, rectal, or forehead 104ºF (40ºC) or greater

Your doctor can tell you if you should try home remedies first or consider an antibiotic.

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