Last night we dealt with my 3 year old’s second bout of an earache. His first was only a few months ago and resolved within a day; a visit to the emergency room on the weekend, a prescription of antibiotics which his Doctor recommended we wait on, and a few doses of Tylenol to control his very high fever & help him cope. We never ended up starting him on the antibiotics and he recovered within 24 hours. This time around however, there was no fever and only a slight running nose that had started two days prior and so I decided to try a few home remedies and wait until the morning before calling on the Doctor. A warm onion poultice later, he fell into a comfortable sleep and woke in the morning earache free!
Colds and flu’s and the occasional earache in this age are not only normal and expected but they are beneficial to the child’s developing immune system; given the child has an overall healthy constitution and is capable of healthily overcoming these innocuous infections.
However, these middle of the night very painful episodes of earaches are not just difficult for the sleepless babe, but also heart-wrenching for parents who are told to watch and wait before beginning antibiotics. This recommendation of waiting up to 3 days prior to initiation of antibiotics (in an otherwise healthy child with a diagnosis of ‘uncomplicated’ middle-ear infections) is due to the understanding that antibiotics are not always necessary or effective in resolving middle-ear infection. So what are your options as parents in helping speed up healing while you watch and wait?
Here are a number of home remedies to be used only once a diagnosis by a health professional has been made and the watch & wait method recommended:
- Ear Oil – can be purchased in health food stores and is usually a combination of Mullein, olive, garlic extracts used for their antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Follow instructions on package and do not use on children under 2 years of age without first consulting a health professional.
- Heat pack on affected ear – a warm wheat/rice bag or covered water bottle against the sore ear can take the edge off the pain. Ensure that whatever you put against the ear is only warm and not hot.
- Onion poultice – grate half an onion, wrap in cheese cloth and cover with a small towel. Warm in microwave for 15-20 seconds and place over ear taking caution towel is warm and not hot. Similar to garlic in the ear oil, onions have anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties; the warmth and vapours from the sulfur compounds help break up congestion and reduce pain.
- Supplemental vitamin C, probiotics, elderberry extract as needed and recommended by naturopath to boost immune system.
Of the above, the only recommendation that has been ‘scientifically’ studied is number 1 (naturopathic ear Oil preparations) and the study can be found here. The remaining home remedies have traditionally been used and found to be helpful although there’s no scientific evidence available as of yet. This is not to say the remaining treatments are ineffective -they have not been studied and thereby no evidence to judge it either way.
Hope these steps help relieve some of the discomfort in your little ones as you both endure the “Watch & Wait” hours and days.
Yours In Health,
P.S. Please ensure to consult with a healthcare professional if your child suffers from recurrent ear infections and do not self-treat in cases of high fever and other concomitant symptoms.