If you’ve ever had an ear infection, then you know how uncomfortable they can be. Earaches are painful for adults and children alike but are easy to treat if you know what to do. Let’s take a look at the best home remedies for ear infections, as well as some ear infection medications.
Bacteria or viruses most commonly cause ear infections (acute otitis media). Ear infections often happen as a result of allergies, colds, or upper respiratory problems. When the tubes inside the ear fill up with fluid and mucus, this causes an infection.
Kids get more ear infections than adults do, and most will have at least one ear infection before they turn 3 years old. One of the main reasons children get more middle ear infections than adults is because they have shorter eustachian tubes.
Ear infections can cause the following symptoms:
- Inner ear pain
- Hearing loss
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty balancing
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Sore throat
13 home remedies for ear infections
These are the most common ear infection remedies that can help relieve pain associated symptoms:
- Cold or warm compresses
- Neck exercises
- Vitamin D
- Garlic oil
- Chiropractic care
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Naturopathic ear drops
- Changing sleeping positions
- Apple cider vinegar
- Facial gua sha
1. Cold or warm compresses
Both warm and cold compresses can relieve pain from an ear infection. Hold either a hot pad or cold washcloth against the ear for 10 to 15 minutes or alternate between hot and cold for an easy ear infection remedy, especially for children.
2. Neck exercises
Neck exercises that rotate the neck can help relieve pressure in the ear canal that’s caused by ear infections. Here’s how to do neck-rotation exercises:
- Sit or stand up straight.
- Rotate your neck to the right, so it’s parallel with your right shoulder. Hold for five to 10 seconds.
- Repeat this exercise on the left side.
- Raise your shoulders high like you’re trying to reach your earlobes with them. Hold for five to 10 seconds.
- Repeat these exercises throughout the day.
Oil made from the flowers of the mullein plant has shown to be an effective pain reliever for ear infections. Mullein is available at most health food stores as a stand-alone tincture or as an ingredient in herbal ear drops.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D (Vitamin D coupons | Vitamin D details) may seem unrelated to ear infections, but it’s known to boost the immune system. A healthier immune system is less likely to be susceptible to ear infections. A 2017 study published in Acta Paediatrica showed that the risk of ear infections might be reduced by increasing serum levels of vitamin D through food consumption, supplementation, and direct sunlight.
5. Garlic oil
With antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, garlic oil ear drops can be applied to the ear canal to help kill bacteria or viruses that might be causing an ear infection. You can also soak crushed garlic cloves in warm olive oil to make your own garlic oil ear drops.
6. Chiropractic care
Chiropractic adjustments may help relieve tight muscles around the ear, which will allow trapped fluid to drain. One study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic care may decrease ear infection symptoms in young children.
7. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide can help keep ears clean and prevent dirt or additional bacteria from entering the middle ear. It’s especially helpful for preventing swimmer’s ear. Swab a tiny amount of hydrogen peroxide onto the ear canal, but be careful that too much doesn’t get into the ear itself.
Well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger in the form of juice or infused oil can be applied to the outer ear canal, but it should never be put directly into the ear.
9. Naturopathic ear drops
Naturopathic ear drops contain a variety of different herbs or essential oils that can help treat ear infections. They may have garlic, ginger, tea tree oil, mullein, or other herbs in them. The best place to find natural ear drops would be at a health food store or supplement shop.
10. Changing sleeping positions
If you’re a side sleeper, try sleeping with your affected ear facing up instead of down into the pillow. Sleeping with your affected ear on a pillow could aggravate your ear even more. Suggesting this to children who may not think of it intuitively can help alleviate their pain at night.
11. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may help treat ear infections because it contains acetic acid, which is antibacterial. Try this home remedy by mixing equal parts warm water and apple cider vinegar, and then applying a few drops to the affected ear with a dropper bottle. Alternatively, you could soak a cotton ball with the warm water-vinegar solution, put it on the outside of the ear, and let it sink in.
“Acupuncture is especially helpful for both earaches and ear infections,” says Sarah Emily Sajdak, DAOM, a licensed acupuncturist at Aquarius Acupuncture in New York. “Acupuncture allows for both the release of the muscles, which allows for the flow of blood and lymph to decrease inflammation, and it can also help decrease the infection using specific internal medicine points on the body to ‘clear heat,’ as it’s called, to clear the infection.”
13. Facial gua sha
Sajdak also recommends facial gua sha, which is a massage technique using a jade stone or rose quartz to relax muscles and improve circulation. “It can be used to release the jaw and neck muscles,” says Sajdak. “Often, tight muscles of the neck and jaw clenching stagnate the blood and lymph, thus hindering healing.”
Ear infection medicine
If natural remedies for an ear infection don’t work, over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be needed. Here are some of the most popular ear infection medications.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs can help relieve pain and fevers that are caused by ear infections. These are three of the most common NSAIDs:
Antibiotics can help clear the infection if it’s caused by bacteria. If you or your child are prescribed antibiotics for an ear infection, you must take the entire dose of antibiotics. Not finishing the prescribed antibiotics can leave some bacteria alive and lead to antibiotic resistance. These are some of the most popular antibiotics for ear infections:
Decongestants work by reducing swelling in the mucus membranes, which help open up the passages leading to the middle ear and relieve symptoms. Here are some examples of decongestants for ear infections:
- Afrin nasal spray
When to see a doctor for an earache
Sometimes no amount of self-care or over-the-counter medication can help an ear infection. Knowing when to see a doctor can help further complications from developing.
If your earache is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as a fever or hearing loss, you should see a doctor. You might be referred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor.
In some cases, people with a chronic ear infection may need to have surgery. Doctors can put small tubes into the eardrum that will help prevent ear infections. The tubes allow air to flow into the middle ear and fluid to drain.
Leaving an ear infection untreated can cause the infection to spread or cause permanent problems with balance and hearing loss.