Until recently, childhood earaches and infections were primarily treated with a routine course of antibiotics. However, research now shows that childhood earaches can resolve within 10 days time with or without antibiotic use.1 In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a more conservative stance on how often and when antibiotics are actually necessary to treat a common ear infection.2
Ear infections or earaches in children can be quite painful and disruptive to the whole family. While anti-inflammatory medications and numbing ear drops can help symptom relief and increase comfort, there are natural remedies and techniques that can increase healing time, decrease pain, and fight the issue with speed and efficiency.
Repeated occurrence of earaches often stems from a food or environmental allergy. The most common food allergy or food sensitivity associated with earaches is cow’s dairy. By eliminating cow’s dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream during and prior to an ear infection or ear inflammation, tendency towards ear issues and length of an acute earache are minimized. Of course, excess sugar in the diet, including undiluted fruit juice, can increase risk of infection as well. Adhering to a diet with plenty of liquids, soups, and low sugar smoothies, as well as eliminating dairy, gluten, and overall sugar intake, will decrease inflammation and aid the immune system.
There may also be underlying environmental allergies to grasses, pollens, household cleaning products, pillows and bedding, dust mites, and molds that increase earaches. Testing for and eliminating common allergens such as cow’s dairy, grass, pollens, mold and dust mites can reduce risk, frequency, and length of the issue.
For acute infections and ear pain, herbal remedies (combined with dietary restrictions) work very well to increase healing time and decrease inflammation. A common herbal remedy for ear pain from infection is a topical ear oil combination made of mullein leaf and garlic, applied by drops into the ear several times per day. For general immune system boost, children can safely take elderberry in liquid form as well as vitamin C, zinc, and probiotics. Hot compresses to the ear using a hot, wet washcloth or heating pad can minimize discomfort, and diluted essential oils applied to a wet washcloth such as eucalyptus or oregano can be added. An old, folkloric remedy that actually works well to reduce ear pain and aid healing is to heat a thick slice of onion on the stove in light oil, add 3-5 drops oregano essential oil, wrap in cheesecloth and place next to the ear for 10-30 mins. There are chemicals released from the onion and oregano oil that can eliminate bacteria and soothe inflammation.
In addition to these remedies, seeing a chiropractor to adjust the neck and back (even in children); light massage to the neck area below the ear; minimizing stress and hectic school and activity schedules; and for babies, repositioning bottle and breast feeding to a more upright position can all aid in reduction of earaches.
If earaches become problematic, it is always wise to get further advice and possible lab tests to determine the origin of the issue.
Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is state licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on fertility, family wellness, and pre-conception health. She can be reached at Optimal Health Center (760) 568.2598.