Kids and ear infections seem to go hand in hand, kind of like peanut butter and jelly. The infection or inflammation of the middle ear is officially known as otitis media. The inflammation often begins when viral or bacterial infections that cause sore throats, colds, or other respiratory or breathing problems spread to the middle ear. Antibiotics are often the treatment of choice by doctors, but if the infection is caused by a virus or allergy, antibiotics will be of little use. For this reason, it can make sense to consider your “natural” options as well. These remedies can help you treat your child’s discomfort and speed healing.
To get to the root of chronic ear infections, think allergies, says Deborah Wiancek, N.D., a naturopathic doctor whose practice, the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic, is in Colorado’s Vail Valley. “The number-one cause for kids is dairy products, which leads to mucus, which leads to constant runny noses,” says Dr. Wiancek. “When kids lie down, the mucus drains into the ears and stays there, and they are more likely to get ear infections.” So one of the first steps she takes is having patients eliminate dairy to eliminate the mucus buildup.
For pain, Dr. Wiancek recommends garlic oil and mullein drops, five drops in each ear twice a day. (You need to do both ears because infections can travel from one ear to the other.) “The garlic is a natural antibiotic and it kills bacteria, and the mullein is an anti-inflammatory that will help stop the pain and help the healing process,” she says. “It’s really soothing. It’s definitely better to use them together.” You can get these premixed at health food stores. You may also want to try Otikon Otic Solution. A study in the medical journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine in 2001 showed that children with ear infections who received Otikon Otic Solution, which is an olive oil solution with herbal extracts of calendula, mullein, garlic, and St. John’s wort, experienced as much pain relief as from medicated ear drops.
The Healing Power of Homeopathy
Homeopathy, the principle of “like treating like” can work well for ear infections. The practice of homeopathy aims to stimulate the body’s own healing responses by giving extremely small (and quite safe) doses of substances that produce symptoms of illness when given in larger doses. The homeopathic remedy Aconite is recommended for throbbing ear pain that develops quickly after exposure to cold air. Chamomile works well with ear infections associated with teething.
Hot and Cold Remedy
Hydrotherapy can soothe earache pain, too, says Dr. Wiancek. Here’s how to do it:1. Put a warm towel, compress, or heating pad on the ear for five minutes.2. Then put a cold compress on the ear for one minute.3. Do this three to five times in a row, and always end with the cold. This drains and soothes the ear.