Ear infection at home

Things You Can Try

While research that says home remedies work for ear pain is scarce, most doctors agree these treatments are safe to try at home. Still, before you do, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor.

Some options include:

A cool or warm compress. Soak a washcloth in either cool or warm water, wring it out, and then put it over the ear that’s bothering you. Try both temperatures to see if one helps you more than the other.

Olive oil drops. While there’s no scientific evidence that proves this treatment works, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it could be moderately effective on ear pain. Put a few drops of warm olive oil in the ear that’s giving you trouble, like you would use ear drops.Olive oil or ear drops should not be used in people who have ear tubes or a ruptured ear drum.

Try a pain reliever. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can often relieve the pain of an earache. Ask your doctor which is right for you.

Chew gum. If you’re on an airplane or driving at high altitudes and your ear pain is from the change in air pressure, chew some gum. It can help lower that pressure and ease your symptoms.

Sleep upright. While it may sound strange, resting or sleeping sitting up rather than lying down can encourage fluid in your ear to drain. This could ease pressure and pain in your middle ear. Prop yourself up in bed with a stack of pillows, or sleep in an armchair that’s a bit reclined.

Home Remedies: Middle ear infections

An ear infection (acute otitis media) is most often a bacterial or viral infection that affects the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear. Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.

Ear infections frequently are painful because of inflammation and buildup of fluids in the middle ear.

Because ear infections often clear up on their own, treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem. Ear infection in infants and severe cases in general often require antibiotic medications. Long-term problems related to ear infections — persistent fluids in the middle ear, persistent infections or frequent infections — can cause hearing problems and other serious complications. To find relief from ear infections, try to following:

  • Over the counter medications.
  • A warm, moist cloth over the affected ear.
  • Nonprescription eardrops with a local anesthetic.

About 80 percent of children’s ear infection resolve on their own, without using antibiotics.

Do alternative therapies work?

Alternative ear infection treatments abound on the internet and in books and magazines. They include chiropractic adjustments, homeopathy, herbal eardrops and others.

Perhaps you’re seeking alternative treatments for your or your child’s ear infection because you’re concerned about using antibiotics or because your doctor has recommended watchful waiting. You may turn to alternative treatments to ease discomfort.

In most cases, however, researchers haven’t studied alternative ear infection treatments adequately using widely accepted scientific methods. For this reason, alternative ear infection treatments aren’t generally recommended for use in children.

Some alternative ear infection treatments have been studied with mixed results.

  • Homeopathy. A controversial treatment for ear infection, homeopathy involves using highly diluted preparations of natural substances, typically plants and minerals, to treat symptoms of illness.Study results have been mixed, and it remains unclear whether this treatment is of any benefit. Many such products aren’t monitored and are subject to limited regulatory oversight by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Chiropractic treatment. This involves manipulating the body so that the skeleton is in alignment. Proponents of chiropractic treatment claim that certain manipulations can prevent or cure ear infections.No rigorous long-term studies have proved the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for ear infections. And children may be at increased risk of injury from certain manipulations.
  • Xylitol. Found in many fruits and used as a natural sweetener in chewing gum, xylitol has been found in some studies to help prevent ear infections but not treat them. To be effective, xylitol needs to be taken in high doses. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are common side effects.
  • Probiotics. Certain strains of these “good” bacteria, which occur naturally in the body, may help prevent ear infections in infants and children. Studies have been done on both oral probiotics and nasal sprays with mixed results. Probiotics generally are considered safe and are not known to cause side effects.Other alternative ear infection treatments that show some possible effect include traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture, and herbal eardrops. But more study is needed to determine the effectiveness and safety of alternative treatments.

Before your child uses an alternative ear infection treatment, be sure to:

  • Learn about treatments. Understand your options and what’s involved. Find out what benefits their practitioners claim the treatments provide and the potential risks or side effects.
  • Find out what the treatment costs. Alternative therapies may not be covered by medical insurance.
  • Assess the credentials of anyone who advocates alternative medicine. Gather information from a variety of sources and evaluate the information carefully.
  • Tell your doctor. It’s important for your doctor to know if you decide to use an alternative therapy. Some treatments — such as herbal supplements — may alter the effect of other therapies or medications. Others may create dangerous drug interactions.


Prevention

The following tips may reduce the risk of developing ear infections:

  • Prevent common colds and other illnesses. Teach your children to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly and to not share eating and drinking utensils. Teach your children to cough or sneeze into their arm crook. If possible, limit the time your child spends in group child care. A child care setting with fewer children may help. Try to keep your child home from child care or school when ill.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. Make sure that no one smokes in your home. Away from home, stay in smoke-free environments.
  • Breast-feed your baby. If possible, breast-feed your baby for at least six months. Breast milk contains antibodies that may offer protection from ear infections.
  • If you bottle-feed, hold your baby in an upright position. Avoid propping a bottle in your baby’s mouth while he or she is lying down. Don’t put bottles in the crib with your baby.
  • Talk to your doctor about vaccinations. Ask your doctor about what vaccinations are appropriate for your child. Seasonal flu shots, pneumococcal and other bacterial vaccines may help prevent ear infections.

This information is provided by Mayo Clinic Staff.

Not all earaches require serious medical attention. In most cases, earaches, though uncomfortable and inconvenient, can go away on their own without the need for any special care or medicine. Nonetheless, when you understand the causes and symptoms, you will be better equipped to handle ear pain and choose the right treatment. Thankfully, there are several earache remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms. These remedies include:

1. Over-the-counter medicine: Many pain relievers that you can find in your local grocery store or drugstore provide effective earache relief. Before spending money on seeing a doctor and buying expensive antibiotics, the best thing you can do is go to a pharmacy and pick up some ibuprofen or aspirin.

2. A warm towel or ice pack: What seems to work for many people with ear pain is a warm towel or ice pack. Place either the towel or ice pack on the affected ear. After 10 minutes, move it to the other ear if pain is present in both.

3. Ear drops: Ear drops for pain is a good treatment option. Antipyrine and benzocaine otic provide ear pain relief and can be found in most local drugstores. There are ear drops made from herbal extracts that may be more suitable for certain people. However, if you decide to use ear drops, you should speak to your primary care physician first to see if it’s safe for you.

4. Sleep positions: Certain positions can either make earache symptoms worse or better. If you are experiencing an ear pain, you should not sleep on the side where you have the pain. Try to sleep with the affected ear raised or elevated – these two positions should reduce the pain and not aggravate it any further.

5. Chewing gum: This is probably the most practical solution, especially if the ear pain is related to pressure caused by being on a plane.

What about a home remedy for ear pain relief?
Home remedies are quick and convenient but should not replace the advice from your own doctor. When something seems to feel different in your physical health – whether it’s your ears or any other part of your body – it’s important you make sure there is nothing seriously wrong. If you don’t see any improvements after trying certain home remedies for an earache, you should speak to your doctor about your symptoms. In most cases, an earache is a temporary issue that can go away with a little bit of care. However, if the symptoms get worse or you don’t see improvements after several days, you should definitely reach out to a healthcare professional.

Your kiddo is tugging on her ear again. Uh-oh. Or maybe ear pain is keeping you up at night. No matter the age, ear infections are no fun. ENT-otolaryngologist Anh Nguyen-Huynh, MD, explains all about ear infections, and the earache remedies you can try at home.

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What type of ear infection is it?

There are two common types of ear infections:

  • Otitis media: This ear infection affects the middle ear (right behind the eardrum). Middle ear infections are common in kids and tend to cause trouble hearing, fevers, and pain without much outward signs such as ear drainage or swelling.
  • Otitis externa: This infection affects the ear canal, and is commonly known as swimmer’s ear because water exposure is a risk factor for it. Swimmer’s ear is painful, too, and tends to have more visible signs such as a swollen ear canal or pus drainage.

“There are several home remedies for earaches,” says Dr. Nguyen-Huynh. “Try these for the first two or three days if symptoms are mild.”

Earache remedies you can try

1. Hot or cold compress

The skinny: Grab an ice or heat pack and put it on the affected ear to help with the pain.

Doctor’s advice: The temperature you use is up to you. Wrap it in a towel to make sure it’s not too cold or too hot. You don’t want to cause any burns.

2. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers

The skinny: Pain relievers work as advertised, helping take the edge off the pain.

Doctor’s advice: Both adults and kids can rest easier when they take acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the right dosage. These medications reduce pain and fever, making you feel more comfortable.

3. Sleep position

The skinny: How you sleep can affect ear pain. Rest with your head on two or more pillows, so the affected ear is higher than the rest of your body. Or if the left ear has an infection, sleep on your right side. Less pressure = less ear pain.

Doctor’s advice: It could be effective, though a few inches may not make a big difference in pressure measurement. But if it makes you feel better, go for it.

Two home remedies for earaches that are best left on the shelf

1. OTC numbing drops

Dr. Nguyen-Huynh recommends avoiding numbing drops. “The effect is very brief, and sometimes it does the opposite and stings the ear.”

2. Oils

Be it garlic, tea tree or olive — people swear by putting oil in the ear to help with ear infections. While garlic does have antibacterial properties, Dr. Nguyen-Huynh urges caution. If you’re using it for a middle ear infection, it won’t get to the source of the problem. And even if you do have a hole in your eardrum, there aren’t studies showing it’s safe to put garlic in there.

When to see a doctor about an earache

Dr. Nguyen-Huynh recommends seeing a doctor if:

  • Your symptoms remain after two or three days, even if you’ve tried over-the-counter or home remedies.
  • Your ear is very painful, or you have other symptoms that bother you.

Other common conditions, such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), can masquerade as earache infections. TMJ causes ear pain because the ear canal and the jaw joint share a nerve. “If you have ear pain along with trouble chewing, talking or yawning, then you should see a dentist or TMJ expert to be sure you’re treating the right condition,” notes Dr. Nguyen-Huynh.

The good news? Hot and cold compresses and OTC pain relievers can also help relieve TMJ pain until you sort things out.

What Are Some Home Remedies for Ear Infections?

Not a lot of evidence exists to support these treatments, so it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before trying any of them.

Common home remedies for ear infections involve everything from olive oil and onions to hairdryers. iStock (3)

Ear infections can be painful. Sometimes they cause a persistent dull pain; other times a sharp burning feeling comes and goes. Most of the time, they’re not anything to worry about. Except that you’ll want the pain to cease.

Here is an overview of traditional approaches to treatment, plus everything you need to know about at-home remedies.

Common Relief Options

The most natural treatment is no treatment at all, or the “watchful waiting” approach. (1)

Doctors may go this route for mild cases of middle ear infection, also known as acute otitis media, in an attempt to allow the immune system to fight off the infection on its own without the help of antibiotics.

“Often we don’t need to give antibiotics,” says Sujana S. Chandrasekhar, MD, partner at ENT and Allergy Associates in New York City. Generally, she says ear, nose, and throat doctors will watch the infection for about three days. If the symptoms remain or worsen, then it may be time for antibiotics.

Otitis media with effusion (OME) in particular tends to go away without antibiotics or other treatments. These ear infections are the result of fluid buildup in the middle ear and usually have few symptoms. (1)

Pain Relievers for Earaches

If you or your child is experiencing an infection, you’ll likely want relief from the pain — fast.

For quick relief, your doctor may also suggest reaching for an over-the-counter pain reliever, with or without the addition of antibiotics.

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen could help, though you’ll always want to check with your doctor to be sure. (1)

At-Home Remedies to Treat Ear Infections

Maybe you’re not a fan of pain relievers or antibiotics and want to limit your or your child’s exposure to them.

“Overuse of antibiotics in society in general has caused this growth of bacteria that are now resistant to many types of antibiotics, so we’re trying to reel that back in ,” Dr. Chandrasekhar says.

Given that, natural, at-home options may come in handy. At least 1 in 10 people with ear pain reports having tried one or more types of alternative medicine before visiting their doctor. (2)

Keep in mind, however, that research supporting these treatments is scarce, and it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before trying a new treatment.

Here are six at-home options that may provide some relief:

  • A warm compress Hold a washcloth under warm water and squeeze it to release the extra water. Then, lay it over the ear that’s infected for 20 minutes or so to lessen the pain. (3) A warm water bottle held over the infected ear should also do the trick. (4) “People do the warm compresses simply to try to soothe, to try to draw out the inflammation,” Chandrasekhar says, adding that she does believe it can make people feel a little bit better.
  • Warm olive oil in the ear Chandrasekhar says there’s no proof this works but says it’s okay to try as long as the olive oil isn’t piping hot and there’s no hole in the eardrum. “It may soothe or it may not soothe,” she says. “If there’s no swollen eardrum, may not cause any harm whatsoever.”
  • Herbal extract ear drops Drops containing allium sativum, verbascum thapsus, calendula flores, hypericum perforatum, lavender, and vitamin E in olive oil can help children suffering from a middle ear infection that requires active treatment (rather than simply waiting for the pain to diminish over time). One study found these drops to be just as effective as prescription drops. (2)
  • A solution of equal parts rubbing alcohol and vinegar Applying a couple of drops of this solution in the infected ear could help people suffering from repeat infections of swimmer’s ear (medically called otitis externa), which occurs when water gets stuck in the ear canal and bacteria grow. The rubbing alcohol helps the water in the ear evaporate, and the vinegar prevents bacteria from spreading. (5)
  • Blow-drying the ear This method can also help people who routinely suffer from swimmer’s ear (who aren’t always swimmers — simply being out on a windy and rainy day could cause the infection). Pointing a blow-dryer on low heat near the ear can help dry up any leftover moisture in the ear after being out in the elements, pool, or shower. (5)
  • The juice of an onion Several articles and YouTube videos claim that onions are the secret to curing an earache, which is advice that supposedly dates back to the 1800s. Onions contain a flavonoid called quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. One method calls for heating an onion at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then, once it is cool, cut the onion in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Put a few drops of the juice into the ear. Or, you could place the onion half directly over the infected ear. (6) Chandrasekhar says it’s “perfectly reasonable , but give yourself a time limit like, ‘Okay, if it’s still bothering me in three days I’m going to go in to see a doctor,’” she says.

Who At-Home Remedies Are Best For

Chandrasekhar warns not to try a home remedy on a child under the age of 2 because they’re at increased risk of developing complications.

“If the child is fussing when you put them down flat or trying to pull at their ear or if they’re screaming when you’re trying to feed them, I think bringing them in and listening to your doctor and giving them the antibiotics they need is really important,” she says.

Chandrasekhar is less concerned about older patients who aren’t experiencing other symptoms, like a fever or difficulty eating or drinking.

If none of these at-home options helps relieve pain within a couple of days, it may be time to call your doctor. It’s possible the infection will need antibiotics to heal and leaving it untreated for too long could lead to complications, which can be serious or rarely life-threatening.

Are you struggling with symptoms of an ear infection and wondering how to cure an ear infection fast? Ear infections, whether they afflict adults or more commonly children, can be really unpleasant and outright painful.

Ear infections can be in the outer, middle or inner ear. For this article, I’m going to focus on the most common type of ear infection, which is an infection of the middle ear.

According to the CDC, middle ear infections, “may not need antibiotics in many cases because the body’s immune system can fight off the infection without help from antibiotics” and a mild case “often will get better on its own without antibiotic treatment, so your health care professional may recommend watchful waiting before prescribing antibiotics to you or your loved one.” (1)

So even conventional medicine agrees that antibiotics are often not the way to go, which means it’s time to talk about natural ear infection treatment and ear infection pain relief.

What Is An Ear Infection?

An ear infection of the middle ear, medically known as acute otitis media, can be caused by a bacteria or virus. Most often, ear infections occur in the middle ear, which is the air-filled space between the eardrum and the oval window of the ear. The middle ear is responsible for transmitting sound from the outer ear to the inner ear.

In addition to a middle ear infection, it’s also possible to have an outer ear infection like swimmer’s ear or an inner ear infection. Labyrinthitis is a serious inner ear infection that affects hearing and balance. People with labyrinthitis often experience vertigo and some hearing loss. (2)

If a middle ear infection is bacterial, it’s most likely the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae causing the infection. A virus can cause also cause ear infections. (3) A a cold or allergies can cause congestion that blocks the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. This congestion can lead to a buildup of fluid and pressure and provides an environment for bacteria or viruses that have traveled up the Eustachian tube into the middle ear to flourish, resulting in an ear infection. (4)

What are some common ear infection symptoms? When you have a middle ear infection, there is a good deal of inflammation and fluid buildup going on inside of your ear. This leads to the most prevalent symptom of pain otherwise known as an earache. It can also cause a temporary decrease in hearing ability. The pain or earache is usually worse when lying down. It’s also possible to have a fever. (5)

When it comes to risk factors for ear infections, children experience ear infections more than adults, especially kids between the ages of 6 months and 2 years old because of the size and shape of their Eustachian tubes and their underdeveloped immune systems. Babies that bottle fed, especially while lying down, are more prone to infections than breast-fed babies.

Even the CDC recommends breast-feeding children exclusively for the first six months of their lives and continuing until they are at least 1 year old. Injury to the ear, climate changes, altitude changes, pacifier use, family history of ear infections, and exposure to cigarette smoke are other risk factors. (6, 7, 8)

7 Natural Ear Infection Remedies

What do you do for an ear infection? If you’re wondering, how can I treat an ear infection at home, then you’ve come to the right place. As experts will confirm, an ear infection with a viral cause should not be treated with antibiotics and that’s when these natural yet highly effective middle ear infection treatments can really come in handy. These are helpful natural ear infection remedies for adults and kids.

1. Garlic Oil

There’s a good reason why garlic ear oil is likely on the shelf of your local health store. Multiple studies have demonstrated garlic’s potent antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It’s also been shown to have a highly positive effect on immune health. (9, 10) As “nature’s antibiotic,” garlic oil can help get to the root of an ear infection and kill off the offending pathogens.

If you bring your child to the doctor for an ear infection, you may want to question the recommendation of antibiotics. In the U.S., it’s estimated that 80 percent of children will have an ear infection by time they are three years old and pediatric ear infections are the top condition for which doctors prescribe antibiotics.

First off, antibiotics should only be prescribed when the ear infection has a bacterial cause. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends a wait-and-watch or watchful waiting period in low-risk kids rather than jumping to prescribing antibiotics right away. Many doctors will wait 24 to 72 hours to see if symptoms improve which they often do. (11)

In addition, antibiotics can cause allergies in children. The overprescribing of antibiotics is exactly why bacterial ear infections have become antibiotic-resistant and much more difficult to treat. (12)

2. Probiotics

Probiotics often are included on lists of of complementary and alternative medicine that have been shown to be effective in cases of pediatric ear infections. (13) Having an ear infection means you want to do all you can to boost your immune system. One of the best ways to do this is with the help of probiotics, which are available as a supplement and can also be acquired through your diet by eating things like kimchi, kombucha, coconut kefir and other probiotic-rich fermented foods.

Probiotics can also help to prevent ear infections from occurring in the first place. According to Mayo Clinic, “Certain strains of these ‘good’ bacteria, which occur naturally in the body, may help prevent ear infections in infants and children.” (14)

3. Chiropractic Care

One of the many benefits of chiropractic adjustments is their ability to help improve ear infections. The spine can misalign in the upper neck and that can actually affect the way the body heals. As a result, those nerve signals getting from the brain to that area are affected as well, and it affects the overall healing.

A pilot study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics looked at 332 children ranging in age from only 27 days old to 5 years old and the effects of a series of four to six chiropractic adjustments. Some of the children had an acute case while others had chronic ear infections. Overall, the results revealed a strong correlation between chiropractic adjustments and the resolution of ear infections in children. (15)

Another study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics looked at 46 children 5 years old or younger and the effects of chiropractic care on ear infection symptoms. The typical treatment regimen was three treatments per week for one week, then two treatments per week for one week, then one treatment per week. This study was a limited cohort nonrandomized retrospective study, but its results were interesting: 93 percent of all episodes improved with 75 percent improving in 10 days or fewer and 43 percent with only one or two treatments. (16)

When an ear infection is present, fluid is getting trapped in the middle ear cavity, which then creates an environment for viruses and bacteria to flourish. The idea behind chiropractic care for ear infections is that spinal manipulation, especially of the cervical vertebrae, can help to relax the muscles surrounding the Eustachian tubes allowing for proper drainage. Chiropractic care also aims to restore the natural function of the nervous system, which can benefit the health of the entire body.

4. Nail Down the Root Cause (Allergies)

One of the underlying causes of ear infections can be food allergies. According to researchers, children with food allergies are more likely to develop ear infections. The study first published in 2004 actually found that almost half of the children with a middle ear infection with fluid accumulation had some sort of food allergy. (17)

If your child is allergic to gluten, dairy, nuts or some other food they are eating regularly, then this can be contributing to their development of ear infections. If you or your child suffer from chronic ear infections, it’s a worthwhile investment to get an IgG food sensitivity test that can show you any food allergies, food sensitivities or food intolerances. In general, I recommend avoiding conventional cow’s milk. You can replace cow’s milk products with goat milk, goat milk yogurt and goat cheese.

5. Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a plant, and oil made from its flowers is well-known for being one of the best natural earache remedies. A tincture containing mullein either alone or combined with other herbs is commonly found online and in health stores as a natural remedy for earaches and ear infections.

Research published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine demonstrates how an herbal ear drop containing mullein was just as effective when it came to pain relief as an anesthetic one. (18) Mullein oil is also used to naturally treat ear infections (and more) in dogs too! (19)

6. Heat and Rest

Don’t underestimate the healing help of resting. When your body (or your child’s body) is trying to fight off an ear infection, getting rest and eating a healthy diet are crucial.

Applying heat to the ear can also help with pain. You can use a warm washcloth, but make sure it’s not too hot and it’s wrung out well. (20)

7. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known for its ability to boost immune health, and research has specifically shown how it can help when it comes to ear infections. A case-control study published in the Norwegian journal Acta Paediatrica in 2017 found that the risk of chronic otitis media with effusion can be decreased by increasing serum levels of vitamin D through increased sun exposure, higher dietary intake of vitamin D as well as vitamin D supplementation. (21)

Conventional Treatment

Many doctors unsure of whether the infection is viral or bacterial will prescribe antibiotics, most commonly Amoxicillin, a penicillin antibiotic. A typical course of treatment for children under the age of 6, and for those with a severe middle ear infection, is 10 days. For children 6 years or older, or for those with mild-to-moderate infection, it’s usually five to seven days. However, “most children with uncomplicated acute will recover fully without antibiotic therapy.” (22)

And again, if a virus is at the root of an ear infection, then antibiotics will not help and should not be prescribed. (23)

More Ear Infection Remedies

Top Foods for Ear Infections

  • Water: Helps maintain hydration and clear out mucus.
  • Wild-caught fish: Omega-3 fats found in wild-caught fish (also chia seeds and flaxseeds) help to reduce inflammation.
  • Non-dairy baby formula: If a baby drinks formula, I recommend switching to coconut or goat’s milk-based formulas which tend to cause fewer allergies. However, breast-feeding is most ideal.
  • Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C: Keeps immune system strong, which helps the body’s ability to ward off infection.

Foods to Avoid

  • Potential food allergens: Some common allergens include conventional dairy, gluten, shrimp and peanuts.
  • Conventional dairy: Pasteurized-cow dairy products can be mucus-producing and worsen infection.
  • Sugar: Reduces immune function and encourages inflammation.
  • Processed foods: These foods may contain added chemicals and dyes that young children can be sensitive to.

Supplement Ear Infection Remedies

  • Garlic oil ear drops (2 warm drops in ear daily)
    Garlic oil is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
  • Zinc (10 mg 2x a day for those older than 2 years old)
    Zinc boosts immune function and promotes healing. (24)
  • Vitamin C (1,000mg 3x a day for adults, 500 mg 2x daily for children 6–12 years old)
    Vitamin C enhances immune function and lowers inflammation. (25)
  • Vitamin D3 (400 IU – 2,000 IU daily ages 2–12)
    Vitamin D3 helps support the immune system. (26)

Ear Infection Precautions

If you experience dizziness, vertigo, or hearing loss and these symptoms don’t get better after a few days, or your symptoms are getting worse, you should seek emergency medical care.

Contact your pediatrician right away if: (27)

  • Your child seems very sick with symptoms such as a stiff neck and high fever (102 degrees F).
  • Your child has sudden hearing loss, dizziness or severe pain.
  • You notice redness, swelling, or pain behind or around your child’s ear, especially if your child doesn’t move the muscles on that side of his or her face.

It is commonly recommended that children under 6 months of age who have an ear infection and/or fever see their pediatrician.

Key Points About Ear Infection Remedies

  • Ear infections tend to occur in young children, but they can affect anyone.
  • Ear infections can either be viral or bacterial. Treating a viral ear infection with conventional antibiotics typically is ineffective and includes undesirable side effects.
  • Do ear infections clear up on their own? Yes, they certainly can, especially when you do what you can to boost your or your child’s immune system!

7 Natural Remedies for Ear Infections

    1. Garlic oil
    2. Probiotics
    3. Chiropractic care
    4. Treating allergies
    5. Mullein
    6. Heat and rest
    7. Vitamin D3

Read Next: 13 Natural Sore Throat Remedies for Fast Relief

How to Treat Ear Infections with Apple Cider Vinegar

There are no studies to definitively prove that apple cider vinegar cures ear infections, but it does contain acetic acid.

According to a 2013 study, acetic acid is antibacterial, which means it kills bacteria. Another study shows apple cider vinegar can also kill fungi. A third study has shown apple cider vinegar to be effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be considered a replacement for a visit with your doctor or traditional treatment for ear infections. It should only be used for outer ear infections.

Middle ear infections should be seen and treated by a doctor, especially in children. If you have ear pain and are not sure which type of ear infection is causing it, see your doctor for a diagnosis before putting anything in your ear.

Apple cider vinegar with warm water ear drops

  • Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with warm, not hot, water.
  • Apply 5 to 10 drops in each affected ear using a clean dropper bottle or baby syringe.
  • Cover your ear with a cotton ball or clean cloth and lean on your side to let drops enter and sit in the ear. Do this for about 5 minutes.
  • Repeat this application as often as desired to treat an outer ear infection.

Apple cider vinegar with rubbing alcohol ear drops

This recipe is identical to the one above except it involves rubbing alcohol instead of warm water.

Rubbing alcohol is both antimicrobial and antibacterial. Do not use this method if you have drainage from your ear or think you may have a middle ear infection. Also, do not continue with this mixture if you have any stinging or discomfort when using these drops.

  • Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).
  • Apply 5 to 10 drops in each affected ear using a clean dropper bottle or baby syringe.
  • Cover your ear with a cotton ball or clean cloth and lean on your side to let drops enter and sit in the ear. Do this for about 5 minutes.
  • Repeat this application as often as desired to fight ear infection.

Apple cider vinegar warm water gargle

Apple cider vinegar can also be gargled to help symptoms that may come along with ear infections. It’s not as directly effective as ear drops but might be of extra help, especially for a cold, the flu, and upper respiratory infections.

Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with warm water. Gargle with this solution for about 30 seconds two to three times per day to help with ear infections or their symptoms.

Home Remedies: Suffering from swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. It’s often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming, creating a moist environment that aids bacterial growth.

Putting fingers, cotton swabs or other objects in your ears also can lead to swimmer’s ear by damaging the thin layer of skin lining your ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear is also known as otitis externa. The most common cause of this infection is bacteria invading the skin inside your ear canal. Usually you can treat swimmer’s ear with eardrops. Prompt treatment can help prevent complications and more-serious infections.

  • Keep your ears dry. Dry your ears thoroughly after exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing. Dry only your outer ear, wiping it slowly and gently with a soft towel or cloth. Tip your head to the side to help water drain from your ear canal. You can dry your ears with a blow dryer if you put it on the lowest setting and hold it at least a foot (about 0.3 meters) away from the ear.
  • At-home preventive treatment. If you know you don’t have a punctured eardrum, you can use homemade preventive eardrops before and after swimming. A mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol may help promote drying and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that can cause swimmer’s ear. Pour 1 teaspoon (about 5 milliliters) of the solution into each ear and let it drain back out. Similar over-the-counter solutions may be available at your drugstore.
  • Swim wisely. Watch for signs alerting swimmers to high bacterial counts and don’t swim on those days.
  • Avoid putting foreign objects in your ear. Never attempt to scratch an itch or dig out earwax with items such as a cotton swab, paper clip or hairpin. Using these items can pack material deeper into your ear canal, irritate the thin skin inside your ear or break the skin.
  • Protect your ears from irritants. Put cotton balls in your ears while applying products such as hair sprays and hair dyes.
  • Use caution after an ear infection or surgery. If you’ve recently had an ear infection or ear surgery, talk to your doctor before you go swimming.

Outer ear infection Redness of the ear canal, draining fluids and discharge of pus are signs of swimmer’s ear (otitis externa). Untreated, the infection can spread to nearby tissue and bone.

Symptoms

Swimmer’s ear symptoms are usually mild at first, but they may get worse if your infection isn’t treated or spreads. Doctors often classify swimmer’s ear according to mild, moderate and advanced stages of progression.

Mild signs and symptoms

  • Itching in your ear canal
  • Slight redness inside your ear
  • Mild discomfort that’s made worse by pulling on your outer ear (pinna, or auricle) or pushing on the little “bump” (tragus) in front of your ear
  • Some drainage of clear, odorless fluid

Moderate progression

  • More intense itching
  • Increasing pain
  • More extensive redness in your ear
  • Excessive fluid drainage
  • Discharge of pus
  • Feeling of fullness inside your ear and partial blockage of your ear canal by swelling, fluid and debris
  • Decreased or muffled hearing

Advanced progression

  • Severe pain that may radiate to your face, neck or side of your head
  • Complete blockage of your ear canal
  • Redness or swelling of your outer ear
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck
  • Fever

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms of swimmer’s ear, even if they’re mild. Visit the emergency room if you have severe pain or fever.

People who get earaches on the reg can tell you that while they’re obviously not as painful as say, cramps or migraines, they’re still in that sweet spot of being just bothersome enough that it’s hard to focus on anything else. And while most earaches resolve on their own (more on that in a sec), they still hurt—which makes home remedies such a tempting option.

As it’s somehow still cold and flu season (also: allergy season) and thus peak angry ear season, Patti Kim, ND, LAC, an LA-based naturopathic doctor, kindly shared with Well+Good her go-to home remedies for earache. Are you all ears? You should be.

What usually causes an earache?

The usual cause of earaches, according to Dr. Kim, is an ear infection. There are actually two different kinds, she says. First, there’s swimmer’s ear, which is an external ear infection. “They call it swimmer’s ear because people get it from swimming,” Dr. Kim says. “The water will dry up the natural lipids and oil barriers cause inflammation and irritation.” Don’t let the name fool you though—you definitely can still get it even you haven’t been swimming (say, if you damaged your ear canal by going too hard on those Q-tips).

Then there’s the less-common middle ear infection (also called otitis media). Dr. Kim describes it as a “cold trapped in your ear” that usually comes from a bacterial or viral infection and while it’s more common in children, it can still happen with adults. “Everyone’s eustachian tube that drains out of the ear is at a different angle,” she says. “If the angle is quite flat, it’s difficult for the ear to drain and infections can get trapped in there.”

Of course, earaches can also be caused by a number of other factors, including exposure to loud noises, having foreign objects lodged inside your ear, or even changing air pressure. But generally, Dr. Kim says that ear infections are the most common culprits.

Symptoms of an earache, Dr. Kim says, include lots of pain (duh) as well as tenderness, throbbing, aching, muffled or impaired hearing, congestion and pressure in the ear, and sometimes fever. With kids, she adds, you’ll often see them pulling on their ears to help relieve the pain.

Most earaches can resolve themselves on their own within a few days. But if you want some relief from that achy feeling (or your ibuprofen just isn’t cutting it), Dr. Kim shares some of her favorite home remedies for earaches.

1. Use garlic and mullein oil drops

Garlic isn’t just good for adding tons of flavor to your food. It’s also loaded with health benefits including having antiviral, antibacterial, and pain-relieving properties—making it a good home remedy. Dr. Kim has been recommending garlic, along with mullein and olive oil, to her patients for years and says it “works like a charm.”

“Tilt the head, put the drops in , and then massage all the way down the neck so it really gets in there,” Dr. Kim says. Repeat one to three times per day. She says you can either DIY your garlic drops at home by heating olive oil and infusing it with garlic and mullein. Or, you can purchase it over the counter already made at most health food stores, she says.

2. Try a compress

Dr. Kim also advises alternating between applying hot and cold compresses (as hot and as cold as you can handle) to the ear and neck area at least three to five times a day.

“The sinuses and the ear canal, these are a lot of closed areas of the body where our blood sometimes has trouble getting into in terms of increasing circulation,” she says. “So you want to do that hot and cold to pump the blood and get the circulation going.”

3. Boost your immune system with herbs

It’s no secret that herbs are uber powerful for treating all sorts of ailments including PMS, the dreaded afternoon energy slump, adrenal fatigue, and bloating. Dr. Kim says they can also be helpful in addressing the underlying causes of earaches.

“Herbs are beautiful and wise and strengthen the immune system and help the body heal as a whole,” Dr. Kim says. “So even if it’s not a full blown ear infection, they will help lower inflammation and stimulate the immune system for the body to self- correct.”

For kids, Dr. Kim recommends elderberry, while she says adults can handle the stronger stuff like Oregon grape and Goldenseal. “Herbs can be used as a steam inhalation, tea or infusion, a capsule, or a tincture,” she says. “Dosing is more individual so it’s best to see a naturopathic doctor to figure out individual dosing.”

If none of this is cutting it for you…

If you’ve been trying out your home remedies, or popping the OTC-painkillers, and you’re not seeing an improvement in your ear pain after three or four days, it’s definitely time to go see your doctor for extra help (and to rule out something more serious).

You can also pay a visit to your chiropractor, Dr. Kim says, for a circulation-boosting neck adjustment. She also recommends acupuncture. “Acupuncture helps to break up that stagnation and allows qi (energy) to flow smoothly in the body,” Dr. Kim says. “It also treats the root cause of why someone might have an ear infection based in Chinese medicine diagnostics that are completed by the doctor to figure out a patient’s individual unique imbalances.”

So next time your ears are burning (and it’s not because someone’s talking about you), take heart in knowing that there are a few easy DIY remedies to ease the achy, angry feeling.

Speaking of home remedies, here’s what you should know about using essential oils for headaches. And before you go ham on the medicinal herbs, check out these FAQs from experts.

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