There are varying causes of ear infections such as teething, getting wet and chilled, a recent or current cold, forein body, sinusitis, the after effects of vaccination, or an allergy, most notably dairy.
Symptoms can include acute ear pain, fever, throat pain, swollen glands, discharge from the ear and nasal congestion. The fever can drop during the day and return again in the evening.
Babies and young children call be seen pulling at or rubbing their ear as they try to indicate their ear is hurting.
Ear infections tend to be common up until the age of 8 when the head has grown sufficiently to allow the eustacian canals room to drain properly.
Use 1-3 drops of your chosen oil as often as necessary until the pain subsides.
Warm the oil slightly as cold oil can create more pain.
Treat both ears as the infection can move around.
Any of the following oils may be used:
- Mullein flower oil is the best natural remedy for earache
- Warm olive oil
- Warmed olive oil in which garlic or onion has been soaked
- St John’s Wort oil
An aromatherapy blend can be used in which the following oils are added to a base oil.
- Lavender – 3 drops
- Chamomile – 3 drops
- Tea tree – 6 drops
Mix together and use a little on a teaspoon or to drop into each ear. This oil is anti-bacterial and tea tree oil is also anti-viral.
To heat the oil – heat a teaspoon by putting it into a cup of boiling water and then pour a bit of the oil onto the warmed spoon. Put a few drops into the child’s ear taking care not to burn them with the hot spoon. Take care not to overheat the oil, and don’t use this method if there is a perforated eardrum or if you see discharge coming from the ear.
If the eardrum is perforated, put a couple of drops of lavender oil on a piece of cotton wool and place in the ear.
If an earache has come on out of the blue and you are unprepared then try using Optrex drops which are designed to reduce inflammation in the eye. They can also help reduce inflammation in the ear.
The pressure in the ear is increased on lying down, so prop the child up on some pillows so the head is higher than the rest of the body.
Simply warming the ear is helpful, and holding a hot water bottle or heating pad to the ear can be very soothing. Test the bottle against your own cheek to make sure it’s not too hot especially with babies who have very delicate skin.
An warm onion pad can soothe the ear and break up congestion. Put half an onion in a pan of boiling water for minute. Wrap it in a muslin cloth and hold to the ear.
Another warm pad you could try to ease the pain is a cup of heated salt heated and tied into a muslin cloth. When it’s cool enough hold it over the ear.
Rescue remedy cream applied just below the ear can help to calm the child and reduce inflammation.
Hopi ear candles can be used to draw out the wax. Only use when the child is old enough to remain still, and be mindful of fire hazards.
Avoid swimming or bathing during an attack and always dry the hair thoroughly in cold weather.
Try to keep them calm and avoid over-stimulation.
Rest is important for a few days as ear infections do take a while to clear.
Homeopathy can be really useful for both acute and chronic otitis media. Give one dose every twenty minutes whilst the pain is bad.
Belladonna is for sudden pain usually brought on after becoming cold and wet, such as after swimming. The right ear may be hot with throbbing pains and the glands may be swollen.
Aconite is useful for the early stages of earache, especially when it comes on after getting chilled. There is unbearable pain.
Chamomilla is for when the child is beside themselves with pain and very irritable. Nothing consoles them and they can lash out at you. One cheek may be red and hot. This earache can be linked to teething.
Hepar sulph may be used when there is a build up of pus. There may be a sore throat and pain on swallowing. The ear is sensitive and the child irritable.
Pulsatilla is for a child who’s weeping with pain and is better for being comforted. They feel better in the fresh air.
Merc sol is for earaches which are worse at night-time. There is a foul smelling discharge from the ear.
Kali bich is for earache with a thick, yellow, stringy discharge.
Ferrum phos can be used when there is a cold or sore throat and general infection. There is local heat and swelling and a throbbing pain.
ABC is a combination remedy which is excellent for earache if you are unsure of which remedy to give. It’s a combination of Aconite, Belladonna and Chamomilla. It can help with the earache and any accompanying fever.
Plantain tincture (Plantago) or Witch hazel tincture (Hamamelis) can be mixed with oil and dropped into the ear every couple of hours.
Essential oils can help soothe the pain. Add a few drops to warm olive oil and rub gently around the ears, throat and nose. Good oils to use are lavender, rosemary, chamomile, cardamom, thyme, tea tree, and marjoram.
Essential oils such as eucalyptus, thyme or tea-tree oil can be added to a steam inhalation, an oil burner or onto a handkerchief for the child to inhale. They are anti-bacterial oils and eucalyptus is particularly beneficial for relieving congestion.
Take echinacea tincture or tea every couple of hours when the condition is acute to help aid the immune system.
Make a tea of mucous membrane healing herbs such as calendula, elderflower and peppermint which will help to relieve the congestion.
Avoid dairy foods during an attack as they are mucus forming and can make it worse. If you need to use milk, try goat’s milk or soya milk.
Consider avoiding wheat and citrus if you find that helps.
Avoid sugar as that lower the immune system.
If the child feels ill, give wholesome soups to eat as they’re easy to digest.
Live yoghurt will add friendly bacteria to help the immune system.
Increase fluids such as water, raw juices and herbal teas. If there is also a fever, it’s important that the child remains well hydrated.
Make a cup of boiling water, add some grated ginger, freshly squeezed lemon or cider vinegar and honey and allow to cool a little before drinking. This will help to clear mucus and boost the immune system.
The Chinese believe that the health of the ears is linked to that of the kidneys. A hot water bottle placed on the lower back over the kidneys may help to relieve the ear infection. Children prone to ear infections should not only wear a warm hat in the winter, but also ensure they keep their kidneys warm – just as our grandmothers used to tell us! Make sure the child drinks plenty of fluids.
Chinese Medicine also believes that holding in strong feelings can cause a pattern of heat which lead to earaches, so don’t encourage suppressed emotions. Let them yell now and again (as long as they do it quietly . . . !). Bach flower remedies may help if you feel there is a problem in this area.
The Sanjiao channel massage is a form of acupressure for an acute attack – repeatedly stroke down the outside of each forearm from the elbow to the back of the hand, along the line midway between the two bones in the arm. Repeat on each arm for around a minute.
Recurring Ear Infections
For chronic ear infections and to prevent a re-occurrence feed your child immune strengthening foods, and cut down on foods which can predispose to earaches.
Common food allergies which can stimulate mucus in and around the ears are:
- greasy foods
- all refined and processed foods
At the least it’s usually beneficial to try to remove cow’s milk and cheeses from the child’s diet. Instead try goat’s milk and cheeses, and soya or rice milk.
Boost the immune system with fresh raw fruits and vegetables. Foods which boost the immune system and reduce congestion include:
- sweet potatoes
- oily fish
Vitamin C and echinacea are the super immune boosting supplements. Also include essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) & zinc as they are involved with both the mucous membranes and the immune system. A good fish oil supplement would be good to take, but also try to eat plenty of oily fish, seeds and nuts.
Cleavers, calendula and nettle help to increase lymphatic drainage. Use them as a tea if your child is getting recurrent infections.
Antibiotics may be given to your child. This is fine if they have an actual bacterial infection, but otherwise they won’t be effective as they’re not anti-inflammatories. They may lead to weakening of the immune system and the child will have more chance of a recurring infection. Once a child has been treated with antibiotics, there is an increased chance of them needing them again. If antibiotics are given, take a probiotic after the course has been finished.
A constitutional homeopathic remedy can really help if your child has recurring infections. It can address the root cause of the problem and strengthen the whole system.
Cranial osteopathy is useful if there is a chronic ear infection and also for related conditions such as glue ear. It’s always a good idea to have your child checked out as a precaution especially if there was a long difficult birth and forceps were used. This therapy can help adjust any mechanical problems which may lead to future ear infections and other problems.
Keep Calm and Carry On
As ear infections can be so distressing, both for the child and the parent, it’s important for the parent to keep calm so as not to cause further distress to the child. Children tend to respond well if they see you’re calmly doing something to try to help them.
A low dose of Aconite can be given regularly to calm the child down if they are frightened.
If the child is panicking because of the pain, give a few drops of Rescue Remedy.
The above remedies can also be taken by the parent/carer.
Consult your doctor if . . .
- there’s vomiting.
- the condition lasts more than 24 hours or if intense pain lasts longer than an hour.
- there’s loss of hearing.
- there’s discharge from the ear.
- a rash is present.
- the child is drowsy, has a stiff neck, headaches and a high fever.
- the bony base at the bottom of the ear becomes painful and red.
- there’s a foreign body in the ear – don’t try to remove it yourself.
- a fever goes over 103o or continues for more than a few days.
- there are recurrent infections.
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