There may be no common pain worse than an earache—for babies, kids and parents alike. Even a mild one can be crippling, and the misery can usually be traced to acute otitis media, a.k.a. the dreaded ear infection.
Ear infections occur in the middle ear region behind the eardrum, when the Eustachian tube that connects the throat to this space swells and prevents air from entering the middle ear. The resulting suction can pull in fluid instead. If this fluid becomes infected, an earache isn’t far behind.
Once upon a time, that meant antibiotics, but experts say that only one in eight children actually need these drugs to treat an ear infection. The rest will recover on their own. You can help that process along with these five natural remedies:
1. EUCALYPTUS AND LAVENDER OIL STEAM
Pour boiling water into a large non-plastic bowl and add several drops of each oil. Cover your head with a towel and breathe in the steam. (Be careful not to use too much oil or heat!)
Boil one clove in 1/2 cup of water until it’s soft but not mushy. Place it on the ear (never push it into the ear canal!), cover with gauze or a cotton ball, and secure it with first aid tape to help draw the infection out. Change daily.
3. HOT COMPRESSES
Place a washcloth soaked in hot water over the ear. Repeat as often as needed.
4. MULLEIN DROPS
Mullein is a flowering plant that grows wild in many areas. You can buy prepared extracts or make your own oil by combining one teaspoon mullein flowers with one-half cup of boiling water. Let cool. Next, mix one tablespoon of this mullein tea with one tablespoon olive oil and let sit overnight. Put one drop of the resulting liquid in the infected ear.
5. BREAST MILK
If you’re breastfeeding, breastfed babies have a much lower rate of ear infections than bottle fed infants, and even just a few drops of breast milk offer relief.
Keep in mind that none of these remedies are a replacement for a doctor’s advice. Always consult your physician if you suspect an ear infection, and use these natural remedies only in conjunction with their care.