With summer fast approaching and swimming season, ear infections become a concern for many parents…
When your child becomes cranky, inconsolable, feverish, and holding their ear – you can be quite certain an infection of the ear is developing. Untreated ear infections can lead to serious complications, however most can be successful treated using remedies from your kitchen fridge – before resorting to anti-biotics. Anti-biotics are to be used as a last resort, since chronic use of these medications can lead to other health problems (stay tuned for my research summary on childhood anti-biotics). Note: do not attempt to put anything in the ear if you suspect a perforated or ruptured ear tympanic membrane (ear drum) — if there is a history of a ruptured membrane, bleeding from the ear, extreme ear pain.
In 2002, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends withholding anti-biotics in acute ear infections before the age of 6 months.
If the fever is under 105 F, you can give yourself two-three days before seeking medical therapies. Usually an infant is able to fight infections themselves, and it is good for the immune system to do so. Also, it is important to not suppress the fever too quickly as this can disrupt the mechanism whereby the body fights off the infection.
Hot onion poultice: peel and cut half an onion. Steam the onion until soft. Wrap the onion in cloth, and place the cut edge of the onion next to the ear. A suction is created from the heat and vapor, which draws the infection out. Onions, Allium cepa, have strong anti-bacterial properties. Do this up to five times per day. It also helps with pain.
Hot salt bag for pus infections: place 2 pounds of coarse salt in a cotton pillowcase or soft towel and heat in the oven until it is hot. Once out of the oven, wrap in another cloth to prevent burning, and lie down with the inflicted ear against the salt bag. The compress draws out pus and relieves pain.
Swollen lymph nodes of the neck: dip a dishcloth in cold water or apple cider vinegar and wrap around neck. Immediately place a wool scarf over the cold compress and pin it.
St Francis Ear oil: a combination of St John’s Wort, Allium sativum (garlic), and Mullein. All three herbs are anti-bacterial for otitis media (inner ear infection). If you do not want to purchase this particular combination formula, you can make your own garlic oil with garlic gloves soaked in olive oil. Do not place in the ear if you suspect a ruptured ear drum.
Otitis externa (swimmers ear or outer ear infection): swab ear with cotton stick dipped in equal parts rubbing alcohol and apple cider vinegar. Alternate hot and cold compresses to ear (1 min to 30 sec), and end with a cold compress.
Finally, another natural option is homeopathy. Because it is individualized, a consult with me or another naturopathic doctor would be best.
Remember that chronic ear infections are a result of one of three main factors:
1- Kids ear canals are not anatomically developped and are more horizontal than adult ear canals. This creates more opportunities for infections to develop. Therefore, ear infections during childhood are more common. This generally occurs from swimming or after a shower, as the water stays in the ear and creates an environment for bacteria to grow.
2- Some chronic ear infections may be due to an underlying food sensitivity or allergy.
3- Chronic ear infections may be reflective of an imbalanced immune system.
Source: Buchman, Dian Dincin. The Complete Book of Water Healing. Contemporary books. 2001.