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If you’re looking for home remedies for ear infections, you’ve come to the right place.
Ear infections can be annoying, painful, affect speech, and lead to more serious complications like hearing loss. It is no wonder as soon as one pops up, we want to get rid of it right away!
Thankfully, there are multiple home remedies for ear infections that will help you put an end to the pain. Check out the table of contents below, and continue reading to find out more about healing ear infections naturally. There are also several ideas for how to stop recurring ear infections!
While ear infections occur most frequently in children, they do also occur in adults. This post will discuss a variety of natural ear infection remedies for healing ear infections at home, and teach you how to relieve earache pain safely and most importantly, fast.
What causes ear infections?
Ear infections can be credited to bacteria and viruses. Inflammation plays a major role, causing swelling and pain in the throat, nasal passages and Eustachian tubes. This can be the result of the common cold, the flu, and even allergies!
Swelling, fluid buildup and blockages in the middle ear are what characterize an ear infection. However, it is not always an actual infection (infection is defined as an invasion by disease-causing agents, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, etc.).
The cause of earaches can be inflammation itself, as it can cause pressure to build up in the inner ear leading to ear pain.
Swollen adenoids can also contribute to ear infections, and this may be a reason they are more common among children (children have relatively larger adenoids than adults do to begin with).
Children also experience ear infections more often due to their anatomy–their ear canals are generally straighter than adults and until they tilt more, can cause them to be more prone to ear infections.
Ear infections are most commonly the result of a virus.
Signs of an ear infection
The signs of an ear infection include the following:
- Tinnitus (hearing a ringing sound in your ear)
- Vertigo (nausea, vomiting, headaches, spinning sensation)
- Ear pain
- Problems with balance
- Pus or blood coming from the ear
Signs of ear infection in baby
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your baby, he or she might have an ear infection:
- Fever (temperature of 100.4oF or higher)
- Low appetite/refusing breast or bottle (it can hurt to suck, swallow and chew)
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Fluid (may be yellow, clear or blood-tinged) and/or foul odor coming from the ear
- Difficulty sleeping (it can hurt to lay down)
- Pulling or grabbing ears
Signs of ear infection in toddler
A toddler may be able to communicate that he or she is experiencing an earache. If not, here are some of the signs to watch out for:
- Difficulty with balancing
- Pulling, tugging at, or holding ears, holding head (earaches can cause headaches)
- Difficulty hearing (due to fluid buildup, your child may not hear well, and sounds may be distorted)
Is Healing Ear Infections Naturally Without Antibiotics Actually Possible?
Yes, they can and often do! You can cure ear infections naturally, and sometimes they even clear up on their own!
Antibiotics work by killing bacteria. This is precisely why antibiotics are not effective for most ear infections, because majority of ear infections are actually viral. Furthermore, antibiotics do not stop ear pain and won’t necessarily bring down inflammation (however, they can help to bring down inflammation (source)).
It used to be common practice to prescribe antibiotics for ear infections as the first line of defense, however this practice has proven ineffective. Furthermore, most ear infections resolve on their own within a few days.
Many doctors now practice a “wait and see” approach, to see if the infection will clear up on its own naturally. Some will suggest ways of managing pain. The wait and see period is the best time to try out some of the natural home remedies for ear infections. The goal is to get rid of the pain and infection as quickly as possible and avoid antibiotic use.
I prefer to use homemade garlic oil at the first sign of an ear infection. It helps to alleviate the pain of an earache, and also helps fight bacteria and viruses naturally. There are other natural ear infection remedies discussed below, so you can choose the home remedy that resonates with you the best.
Can I stop recurring ear infections?
Over 50% of children will experience an ear infection by their third birthday, and a large portion of these will have recurring ear infections.
Having to deal with an ear infection yet again can be so annoying! Thankfully there are multiple ways of healing ear infections naturally and putting a stop to recurring ear infections. Let’s look at some of them.
These are ways of dealing with recurring ear infections that research shows actually work:
- removing adenoids and using ear tubes
- reducing or eliminating the use of pacifiers
- avoiding cigarette smoke (contaminants in the air can cause or worsen ear infections)
- washing hands often
- using probiotics
- frequent dosing of xylitol (at least 5x per day)
- avoiding pasteurized dairy
The Best Home Remedies for Ear Infections
I did extensive research about the natural remedies most popular among moms who prefer a holistic approach to health and wellness. Most moms used some variation of natural ear drops for ear infection relief for their little ones and found that this treatment choice was effective for pain management.
Additionally, many discussed using homemade remedies with their Pediatrician, and were pleasantly surprised that most were on board with trying garlic oil with or without additional herbs, whether homemade or bought at a pharmacy.
These were among holistic moms favorite home remedies for ear infections. Any product linked is available on Amazon:
Homemade garlic ear drops
My top favorite home remedy for ear infections is homemade garlic oil. It is simple, quick and easy to make, with ingredients that are often already on hand, or that can be found locally easily.
It is an inexpensive natural ear infection remedy, so it saves you time and money. There’s also research showing that garlic oil is an effective natural treatment for earaches. Click here to learn more about homemade garlic oil, including how-to and usage instructions.
Garlic & mullein oil ear drops
Many moms preferred buying garlic oil, and most of them preferred this concoction, which includes additional herbal remedies that help to reduce pain and inflammation.
I’m personally not big on using essential oils. However most moms liked to use lavender oil applied behind the ear. A few moms chose to use rosemary or melaleuca (tea tree) oils. Some moms also do a bath or massage feet with the essential oil(s) of their choice. Very few actually put drops of the oil inside the ear canal, and when doing so they mixed with a carrier oil first.
Oil of oregano
Oil of oregano is a very strong oil that has antibiotic and antiviral effects. This is one oil I actually do use for multiple purposes. For ear infections, it is best applied in olive oil BEHIND the ear, not internally. I do not recommend for younger children because if they touch it and get it in their mouth or eyes it will burn. You can read the reviews of the oil of oregano brand I like most by clicking here.
Studies show that breastfed babies have lower rates of ear infections. One of the reasons for this that mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies can mimic is feeding baby in a more upright position.
Another reason is because of the suck and swallow techniques babies use when nursing. Moms of bottle feed their baby can make sure the hole in their baby’s bottle is not too large. Although I nursed, my son also used a bottle of pumped breast milk from time to time. I used bottles by this brand because they designed their bottles to mimic breastfeeding in look, feel and flow. It may be something to consider for your baby.
Another reason may be because milk can enter the Eustachian tubes. I could not find studies showing that breast milk entering the Eustachian tubes have a protective effect, but studies do show that breast milk has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents that help to compensate for a baby’s immature immune system (source).
It is also well known that milk or formula entering the ear can contribute to ear infections, so it makes sense to me that breast milk can enter in that way as well and have a protective effect.
Aside from breastfeeding baby, some moms choose to put a few drops of breast milk in the ear canal, stating this helps with pain and clearing the infection. It is unlikely that breast milk reaches the area of infection, however, and I don’t think it can work adjacent to an infection like garlic oil or oregano oil can.
I am not a fan of using colloidal silver internally. This is one of the more popular natural remedies in my local mom’s group, however. Additionally, it’s one that many have had great results with for a variety of issues. Ear infections is one of them.
This brand is the most highly recommended brand of colloidal silver among those who shared their personal experience. Most use 2-3 drops in each ear.
I was somewhat surprised to hear that people actually use this method. I remember when I was younger, my ear hurt. I was old enough to communicate that it wasn’t an ear infection.
My dad decided to investigate my ear and found that there was something in there causing me trouble. He studied medicine for a time before deciding to settle in the Biotechnology field, so I guess he felt that he was well qualified.
He flooded my ear with rubbing alcohol, saying that it would get whatever was in there out and help heal the pain. When I tilted my head to allow the alcohol to drain out, we discovered that I had a biting ant in my ear! Thank goodness I didn’t know in advance or I would have freaked out, and it’s important to stay calm in situations like that!
Anyway, that is the basic method for using rubbing alcohol for ear infections. I would likely only choose this remedy for an older child or adult. One thing I like about rubbing alcohol is that it evaporates quickly.
Hydrogen peroxide is used the same way the rubbing alcohol, by filling the ear with peroxide then allowing it to drain out. Some feel it is necessary to let the hydrogen peroxide marinate in the ear for a few minutes. It is also an effective way to soften earwax buildup in the ear.
A few moms swore up and down that urine was the key to curing an ear infection naturally. I do know that it can be helpful for eczema and other skin conditions.
Apparently urine is sterile and the major organic compound in it, urea, is useful for removing ear wax, which can contribute to pressure and pain in the ears. There are ear drops such as Otex that are sold over the counter and use a combination of hydrogen peroxide and urea. It is a highly recommended, effective method of earwax removal by doctors according to this article on MDedge.
Moms collect their child’s fresh urine and put a few drops in each ear. I don’t think it would be nice to use someone else’s pee to do this.
I recommend this probiotic because of its great track record among multiple people I have recommended it to. The way to use probiotics for ear infections is to put directly in the mouth and let the bacteria creep all over the ears, nose and throat. It may be able to get to the Eustachian tubes and help fight bacteria there.
These probiotics are also useful if for some reason you have to resort to using antibiotics. Probiotics can help counteract some of the side effects antibiotic use causes, including nausea and candida overgrowth/gut dysbiosis.
Xylitol is controversial among the natural health community. It is a natural sugar from the Birch tree, and also found naturally in fruit like raspberries.
However, it can be processed and manufactured from corn. It also causes stomach issues in some individuals.
Although more research needs to be done, there are currently studies that show taking small doses of xylitol frequently throughout the day can help reduce the occurrence of ear infections and sinus infections. It can be helpful for rhinitis and to help treat and prevent dental cavities as well.
I have personally used xylitol for my teeth and my son’s with good results. We used the xylitol directly, made our own spray, used wipes and tried the Spry mints. We most preferred getting the sweetener directly and making our own products.
This brand and this one are the two xylitol sweeteners I would recommend most. They are both non-GMO and sourced from Birch trees. You can use the xylitol powder to make your own sprays, mouthwashes, etc. You can also buy these products pre-made. Click here to see the large variety of xylitol gums and mints you can choose from.
For ear infections, it is best to dose five times per day spread throughout the day. The benefit is from xylitol being in the mouth, not being consumed. Xylitol helps to get rid of bacteria in the ears, nose and throat this way.
Echinacea & Goldenseal
Echinacea and goldenseal are often taken together internally to boost the immune system and fight infections. This formulation is a popular choice for holistic moms. This formulation has history as a traditional treatment for many ailments, including ear infections.
There are supportive scientific studies showing that goldenseal in particular contains antibacterial compounds. There’s also concerning side effects with overuse and chronic use of goldenseal, and you can read more about that here.
Foods To Avoid During Ear Infections
Aside from topical remedies, you might be wondering if food avoidance can help alleviate the pain of ear infections or speed up the healing process. Or maybe you are dealing with recurring ear infections and want to know if there are specific foods you can eliminate from your diet to avoid ear infections.
Eliminating food from the diet won’t necessarily produce an immediate positive effect because it can take some time for the proteins to fully leave the body.
However, removing some of the following foods can help to alleviate the symptoms of an ear infection as well as reduce the chances of a recurring ear infection.
This is because foods that a person has an allergy or sensitivity to can cause inflammation, foster fluid/wax buildup in the ear, and contribute to the growth of bacteria, yeasts and viruses.
It is worth trying to eliminate the following foods and considering keeping a detailed food log if you choose to re-introduce them to see what symptoms they might be causing.
Sugar has been linked with increased inflammation in scientific studies and personal anecdotes. Furthermore, sugar feeds yeast and contributes to Candida overgrowth, especially when antibiotics are taken that wipe out the bacteria that help to keep Candida in check. Ear infections can be fungal in nature, and this can be a contributor to ear infections that recur after antibiotic treatment.
2. Pasteurized Dairy
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that eliminating dairy helps stop recurring ear infections. But what does science say? Scientific studies have not found a link between milk consumption and mucus production. However, studies do show that there is an increased occurrence of ear infections among those with cow’s milk protein allergies. This is worth looking into, especially if your child is a mouth breather and/or snores. (1, 2).
3. Processed Food
Processed foods are well-known for causing inflammation. At the top of the list are refined carbohydrates and processed meats and cheeses. Avoiding processed foods are a great way to avoid consumption of chemical and pesticide residue, as well as preservatives.
4. Bad Fats
Trans fats are inflammatory, as are vegetable oils. The best oils to use are saturated fats from animal sources or coconuts, extra virgin olive oil, and sesame oil. Avoid corn oil, canola oil, margarine and the like as much as possible.
5. Cold Food
Some people report that cold food increases the pain they experience from ear infections. It may be wise to avoid cold foods and stick to warm soups, stews and teas.
6. Any Food You Have An Allergy To!
Some people really underestimate the effects of consuming foods they have an allergy or intolerance to. Studies show that individuals with food allergies have ear infections more often.
When you have an allergy, your body has a negative response whenever it encounters your allergen. Your body releases histamine in response to the allergen, which causes inflammation. Inflammation in the mucous membranes can lead to rhinitis and otitis, or earaches due to pressure buildup inside the ears.
The link between food allergies, inflammation and ear infections warrants avoiding foods you are allergic to, even if you feel the reactions are mild. If you have never undergone allergy testing, consider consulting with your medical team to see if that may help uncover potential causes of symptoms you experience, including recurring ear infections.
Foods That Help Stop Recurring Ear Infections
1. Raw Dairy
Studies show that raw milk consumption helps protect against allergies, asthma, hay fever, rhinitis (inflammation/swelling of the mucus membranes) and otitis (inflammation of the ear/ ear infections). Researchers are actively trying to find out how raw milk does this and if there is a way to keep the protective effects of raw milk with pasteurization (1, 2, 3).
My top recommendation would be to consume milk kefir regularly. This is because of personal experience as well as the experience of multiple friends and others I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with that have had positive results decreasing or eliminating environmental allergies due to regular kefir consumption.
I have heard anecdotal stories of kefir helping with allergies to pollen, mold and even cat allergies.
There are studies that show that milk kefir has an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. There is evidence that regular kefir consumption has anti-allergy effects, helps regulate the immune system and promotes healing (source).
2. Foods High In Zinc
Ensuring sufficient consumption of foods high in zinc is important if you want to stop recurring ear infections naturally. Zinc is well known for supporting proper immune function and warding off infections. Zinc is important for healing, and zinc deficiencies can lead to issues such as tinnitus and sudden hearing loss.
It is important to note that studies on whether or not zinc can actually prevent ear infections are mixed. So it is only one factor to consider to help improve overall health and boost immunity.
Foods high in zinc include grass-fed beef, oysters, pumpkin seeds and almonds.
3. Foods High in EFAs, Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as EPA and DHA are known for their anti-inflammatory effect. It is probably less known that these fatty acids can help prevent or delay hearing loss.
The fish species with the highest levels of omega-3 FAs and lowest levels of contaminants (e.g., methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins) are anchovies, Atlantic herring, salmon, trout and sardines…Fiorini, Costa Filho & Scorza (2016) – Can you hear me now?…
Drinking lots of fluids will help dissolve and clear mucus from the system. Water is much preferable to sweet drinks like juices, even if natural. Broth/soups, teas, and water with lemon juice in it can be helpful to break up mucus as well.
I’m one of those people who love to praise garlic and its many uses! It is great for many natural remedies, but it’s also good to consume regularly to help support your immune system, fight bacteria, provide amazing flavor, and reduce inflammation.
If you don’t already have one of these for crushing your garlic, you should order one ASAP! It will help you include more garlic in your diet. Start by adding small amounts raw to salads and soups right before consuming. Some say eating raw garlic helps with ear pain as well!
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are on any medication, including antibiotics, you should consult your doctor before taking meaningful amounts of garlic. Garlic can affect the way some medications work.
How To Know An Ear Infection Is Severe
Using one of the natural remedies to treat ear infections listed above can provide pain relief and natural healing, but there are still times where consulting a doctor is necessary.
I personally believe that having a good relationship with your doctor is important, and having a doctor diagnose issues is often the best first step even if you will choose holistic treatment methods.
Ear infections can be severe, and at times they may require modern intervention.
Ear infections, especially when they occur over and over again, can lead to scarring, ruptured ear drums, hearing loss, facial paralysis and more. These are scary symptoms, so it is important to be prudent.
Most doctors recommend coming in if an ear infection does not clear up on its own or with the help of natural remedies within 2-3 days.
You should also consider being seen if any of the following occurs:
- blood or pus is draining from the ear
- high fever persists
- pain does not decrease / inconsolable crying
- symptoms worsen
- difficulty hearing
I hope this information has helped you understand how to treat ear infections naturally at home. In addition to the remedies covered above, some moms swore by homeopathy, chiropractic treatment, acupuncture and craniosacral therapy for treating acute ear infections naturally and for putting an end to recurring ear infections in toddlers and babies.