Monday Health & Wellness: Ear Infection Escapades

admin May 14, 2012

Image by Bruce Eric

Thursday night, we got all the kids to bed and I sighed and sat down.  “It’s been a long week, and I hope we get some sleep tonight,” I said.  The boys were quiet, so my husband and I set out to clean the kitchen and playroom quickly before watching some TV and going to bed.  But as we were finishing up, I heard my 4-year-old screaming upstairs.

She complained she was sick and she couldn’t explain what was wrong, other than “my cold is bothering me.”  (She’d had one for a few days already.)  We offered all the usual helps ( essential oils, honey — which she refused, more drinks of water, etc.) and resettled her.  But she continued to cry…every 15 or 20 minutes.  By 11:30 (three hours later) we knew she was not going to settle down.  She had started complaining that her ear hurt.  I tried eucalyptus oil in her ears (diluted) but she didn’t like that.  And so I suspected we had our very first ear infection.

My husband slept in her bed so we could all get through the night.  She came to lay with me at 5:30 when he got up for work, and we were up for the day by 6.  And thus started our ‘escapades’ with ear infections….  I thought you might all like to know what ultimately helped.

Home Help

There are some ways to ease the pain of ear infections at home.  If your child wakes up in the middle of the night screaming like mine did, you can try any of these that they will allow:

  • Essential oil: 4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil mixed with 1 tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil.  Place it in the ear for 5 – 10 minutes, then drain.
  • Garlic oil: Cut a garlic clove into large chunks and let it sit in oil for 10 – 15 minutes.  Do not heat.  Remove garlic (do not leave any pieces) and place some drops of the oil in the ears for 10 – 15 min.
  • Breastmilk: Place breastmilk in the ear and allow to sit for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Collodial silver: Place 2 – 3 drops in the ears and allow to sit for 10 – 15 min.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Place a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the ears and allow it to sit until it stops bubbling.
  • Pulsatilla: This is a homeopathic remedy that is probably the right choice for most in this situation (it won’t hurt if it’s wrong, but it won’t help either).
  • Belladonna: This is another homeopathic remedy to try, especially if fever is involved.
  • Pillows: Prop the person up on pillows to sleep at an incline.  This reduces the pressure on the ears and allows downward drainage.
  • Spanish Black Radish: This is an herbal supplement that encourages drainage.
  • Fenugreek and Slippery Elm: Make a tea from both of these (about 1/2 tsp. each per cup of water), sweeten with honey, and offer it to drink.  It helps to clear mucus from the body.
  • “Special Lemonade:” Let the child sip this ( recipe below)

These things can help ease the pain.  They can also help to clear the infection in many cases.


Since these things alone did not work, our most important line of defense was the chiropractor.  We took her in in the morning and he checked her ears — definitely noted an infection — and adjusted her ears and spine near her ears to encourage drainage.  Ear infections happen because the tubes leading from the ears into the throat become blocked or swollen and won’t drain, and then the fluid inside gets infected.

Within hours after her adjustment, she was able to sleep.  She didn’t complain about her ears hurting anymore.

Seek the help of a qualified chiropractor, preferably one who has experience working with children.  In many cases a simple adjustment can help to clear the infection.  It can also make the above suggestions more effective.

Other Doctors

We also called her pediatrician and an NRT (Nutritional Response Testing) doctor.  I know — we probably overreacted.  But it was her first ear infection and it was a Friday, so if we didn’t address it we’d have to wait through the weekend.  The pediatrician couldn’t see her but said as long as she wasn’t in severe pain and didn’t have a fever she was fine to just wait it out.  He gave the following suggestions:

  • 1000 – 1500 mg of vitamin C, every few hours
  • 25 mg zinc, every few hours
  • Probiotics
  • FCLO, double dose (he said vit A but I always give FCLO)

The NRT doctor said the infection was actually bacterial and gave her some herbal drops to be used both in her ears and internally.  Even though she was feeling better, we offered them to her for a few days.  Since they are herbal and not antibiotics, there is no chance of “resistance” developing if she doesn’t finish a course or take them as directed, so although she’s still taking them, she isn’t taking them as frequently as she was at first.

All of this relieved her pain so that she could sleep, and she hasn’t complained about her ears again.

“Special Lemonade”

This is a very fun little recipe that can help with any cold or ear issue.  Or any sinus issue at all, really.  It’s not especially fun to drink, but there are also worse things.


  • 3 – 4 slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 c. water
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. raw honey
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne


Boil the ginger in water for 10 – 15 min.  Strain.  Add lemon juice and let it cool a bit.  Add the raw honey to taste and cayenne pepper (the hotter, the better).  Sip the tea as needed.  The spiciness of the ginger and cayenne pepper should help clear the blocked sinuses.


Upon hearing that the infection was, according to the NRT doctor, bacterial, my dad asked why we didn’t use antibiotics.  Isn’t that what they’re for?

There are times to use antibiotics, but it’s a very important decision, one to be very cautious about.  In my daughter’s case, her pediatrician didn’t even feel that her symptoms warranted evaluation, much less antibiotics.

Here is what we would have looked for before considering them:

  • High fever, lasting more than a few hours (he said 2 – 3 days)
  • Severe pain
  • Any sign of pus/discharge from the ears
  • Inconsolable crying/inability to sleep
  • Other remedies not working after a reasonable amount of time (4 – 6 hours)

These signs would indicate that the infection was serious and that immediate intervention was required.  Had we chosen to go this route, we would have given probiotics in between doses, put her on a sugar/grain-free diet during the course and for a few weeks after, and offered plenty of FCLO, bone broth, and other healthy foods to support her body during healing (the same as we are now, although we’re not as strict about it — she still has grains and some natural sugars).

Antibiotics should not, in my opinion, be used as a matter of course just because something is bacterial.  There should be a clear indication that the infection is severe and will not clear up on its own, indicating a need for intervention.

**This post has been entered in Frugal Days and Sustainable Ways.**

How do you handle ear infections?

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  1. How timely this post is! My 2 year old has been battling a runny nose and cough for 4 days now and complained of an earache last night. We were on the road and all I had was Tylenol, so he got a dose of that. He fell asleep in the car and we put him to bed immediately when we got home. He slept for 12 hours and hasn’t complained this morning, so I figure he may have been overtired. I’m glad because I didn’t want to spend my 40th birthday at the doctor! I’m going to bookmark this post to reference in the future! Thanks so much!


  2. My 2 daughters had ear infections. I would put them on antibiotics but they just kept reoccurring. I finally stopped the antibiotics. They cried a lot, it hurt, and discharge came out of their ears but after that one time, they never got another ear infection! Their bodies developed an immunity to them, finally. I believe antibiotics weaken the immune system and cause your bodies to lose the ability to fight disease. I didn’t even give them antibiotics when they had strep throat. Dr. Marshall believes a healthy body can fight all infection unless it is in the teeth. I have found this to be true.


  3. Great post. I am battling an ear infection right now too. I am treating with the garlic olive oil and keeping my fingers crossed we don’t need to visit the ped. for it because I do not want them to tell me ‘just give him this antibiotic’. I am going to try some other suggestions you gave as well.


  4. I have had great success with garlic oil! It’s the first thing I run to for any infection, virus, flu, etc. I make very strong oil by crushing or bruising 1 or 2 cloves of garlic per oz of oil. Then I let it sit in a warm (not hot) place for 3 days before taking out the garlic. As soon as one of us has signs of a cold or other health issue, I start rubbing the oil on glands and chest(for coughs), sinuses, soles of the feet where there are lots of blood vessels, etc. Dripping warm garlic oil in the ear and rubbing it around it (ever couple of hours or as often as possible) is so soothing and has kicked an ear infection almost everytime. The only time it didn’t, one trip to the Chiropractor was all it took.


  5. I feel compelled to add: If the infection is really bad (fever, extreme pain), waiting to take antibiotics can cause serious problems.

    I waited for a few days with a terrible ear infection, using heat as my primary course of treatment along with probiotics, vitamins, zinc, and good old chicken noodle soup, and my ear drums burst. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. On top of that, I have significant ringing and hearing loss to this day – and the infection was 2 years ago.

    I would stress seeking a doctor if pain lasts more than 2 days. AND really stress – if there is any blood or even clear liquid dripping out, go immediately to the doctor. Children can suffer hearing loss if an infection goes untreated.



  6. Try a hot washcloth, lay down with the worse ear down on the washcloth for 15 minutes. Seems to help with sinus congestion that has gotten into the ear passages.


  7. I’m impressed with your pediatrician. A good one is hard to come by. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you find him? I’m looking for a new one and at a loss where to start. Thanks for the ear infection tips.


    • Hi Tara,

      I actually found him through my midwives. He’d just moved to town when I was pregnant with my third (I think) and immediately hooked up with anyone in the natural community. They interviewed him and liked his views so they recommend him. Usually, the best way to find a good pediatrician is to ask like-minded friends and professionals.


  8. I feel like every time we take my kids to the pediatrician, we come home with a prescription for antibiotics for an ear infection. Both Cameron (4) and Bennett (4 MONTHS) are diagnosed often. It’s crazy! They always say, “it’s either coming or going.” Which, to me, says they can’t be that bad. And why would I give antibiotics if it could be on its way out?! We’ve treated Cam’s twice–the first time (at around 15 months, the first time he had croup) because he had a 104 fever for a couple of days and, when I asked the ped if antibiotics were really necessary, he said yes because of the lasting fever. As it turns out, our regular/retired ped called us to check in and told us we could have skipped the meds, but ah well. The second time was just recently, and same story–high fever for a few days and he was so miserable we figured we would give them a shot. I don’t feel bad for using antibiotics in those cases, considering it was only twice in 4 years and we have refused to use them maaany times (and the infections always go away on their own).

    Bennett has been diagnosed twice–once in March when he had bronchiolitis, and then just recently at his 4-month appt. Both times, we just took him home and didn’t use meds. He was fine otherwise, with no symptoms…no fussiness, no fever, no feeding problems. The first time we came back for a check-up a few days later and the doctor said his ears looked great, so we were happy to hear we had made the right choice. This last time I double checked with a doctor friend, and even talked to our old/retired ped again, and he stuck to his advice…wait at least one week before treating ear infections–treat for pain, of course, but wait to see if antibiotics are really necessary. He finds they rarely are.


  9. Oh, and I meant to say, my 4-year-old–sometimes he’s diagnosed when obviously sick with a bad cold or croup or something (he has allergies/asthma, so it’s hard to tell what he’s actually sick with, lol), and sometimes when he barely has a sniffle! So, for those times he has an ‘ear infection’ and no other bad symptoms, those are the times we just ignore it.


  10. […] Alternative Mama :: Earache Escapades.  This is a fantastic article and one of the most concise and complete references for natural […]


  11. When one of my 9 children complain of an earache, I take an onion, chop it in half and heat it. Then the heated half is applied to the ear with a washcloth so it doesn’t burn them. When that onion cools down, I apply the other half. I just keep alternating like that until the child says that the ear feels better. We have used this method now for about 10 years and have never had to take anyone to the doctor for ear infections!


  12. We have always had luck with our chiropractor for ear infections. We had the same experience with our son when he was small, around 6 months. He had an ear infection and would not sleep more than 20 minutes at a time. Once we got him adjusted, we took him home and he slept for 3 hours. And we have found with monthly adjustments that ear infections are rarely an issue.


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  14. When you make garlic oil, how much oil do you use?


  15. Apple cider vinegar!! Works like a charm when a few drops are put straight into the ear, kills the pain quickly and then kills the nasties!


  16. […] Ear Infection Escapades: Natural Help for Ear Infections […]


  17. […] Or what if you find yourself in the midst of illness? That’s another great time to visit your chiropractor! Modern Alternative Mama explains of her child’s ear infection: […]


  18. Wonderful article. I’ve recently become interested in alternative medicine/home treatments after getting misdiagnosed by my GP for a potentially life-threatening situation. I think more and mor people are starting to wake up and recognize that the medical establishment does not have our best interests at heart, and they have to take responsibility for their own wellness, simply because nobody else is going to. Unfortunately, mainstream media continues to label anyone who talks about organic therapy/alternative medicine as a “quack” or even a “charlatan” like this article from NBC news: . It’s nothing more than a hit-piece. We need some truthful reporting about the success rate of alternative medicine, it is about time.


  19. Thanks for sharing..


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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