Little teeny tiny ears, so soft and sweet. I have to admit the ear lobe is one of my favorite body parts, is that weird? Sadly, something so precious can also lead to something unbelievably painful. Ear infections have got to be one of the worst short lived childhood aliments. Thankfully, have been incredibly lucky; Coco has only experienced one so far whilst we were traveling a few years ago. The younger they are, the harder it is to diagnose at times. We tend to only visit the doctor when deemed necessary and this was one of those situations. Her fever was high, lasting more then several days. Nothing natural was working, no tylenol was working. We found a local doctor ( a regular doc, not a natural doc) and it turned out she had a double ear infection. Probably from flying with a small cold, the mucus built up in her ear canal. I was extremely grateful for the doctor we were guided towards because he told me about the facts of ear infections; how antibiotics are not the best course of treatment, how they can actually cause ear infections to return again and again and what are the main causes of these viral and bacterial infections. He was so gentle and honest, as a western pediatric doctor I really believed in what he had to say, this was our first experience with an ear infection so I was all ears... He actually suggested natural remedies for us to try which I was incredibly grateful for as Coco had never taken an antibiotic in her entire life! However, about 5 minutes later his tone changed when we discussed our travel concerns back to LA in two days. Now he was suggesting antibiotics, my heart fell into my stomach, we had come so far naturally. He understood our concerns but he said the natural treatments make take too long to clear up before she flies and for the sake of pain level, this would help clear things up quickly and give Coco much needed comfort whilst flying!! He gained my trust, so we went ahead with both variations of treatment. Between the two her ear infection completely cleared up and we had a very pleasant flight home. I came around to the antibiotics because I saw how well the worked when it was truly needed. In a time when antibiotics are extremely over used, I was happy to see the results when used properly. Thankfully we have not had any reason to take them again!
Below are some natural remedies to over come an ear infection. Below that I speak more about the causes of ear infections, which types to be alarmed about (meaning go straight to the doctor) and why antibiotics are not the best treatment, most doctors are on par with this now...
The Onion Method
Cut an onion in half, leave this onion in the room while your child sleeps. On a side table, under the crib. Somewhere close by but out of arms reach. Not the most pleasant smell I must admit but the onion can draw out the infection. This is for younger children who may not sit still for the ear wrap or for infants. It has a pretty grand effect just being near the body!
For those of you with older children cut the onion in a thick slice about 1/2 inch.
Place the onion slice on a piece of muslin, cheesecloth or this cotton ( you use a bandana or cut a piece of your swaddle).
Now fold over the cloth on both sides. Then fold the cloth over again. You are wrapping up the onion to make a little square parcel.
Using a cup, you want to grind the base into the onion to get the juices out and flowing.
It should look a little like the above. Yellow and wet. Not too much though as you want the onion to remain some what in tact.
This step is optional. Heat is always recommended for ear infections. It is soothing and helps the inflammation. I don't use microwaves but this is an option. I prefer to boil water and use a cutting board resting above to warm up the onion poultice. Once its warm to touch but not burning remove from heat. You will want to have the next two steps ready to move quickly as you don't want to loose the heat!!
Another optional stage, but I prefer to be neat and tidy when working with kids. Plus I don't love the smell of an onion unless I am eating it in a good home cooked meal. So the less onion spilling in the bed or the couch the better. Trust me, kids wiggle around especially with a head wrap! I used a colorful masking tape but any masking tape will do to seal the goods.
Now you want to take your onion poultice place it one the ear and cover it with something wool to hold in the heat and something which allows it to be hands free. I knitted this bonnet over winter break which actually is so perfect, but another option is a wool beanie, wool scarf or just strips of wool from the fabric store you can turn into a wrap.
Keep it on for as long as they allow it. Whilst they nap or during bed time is the best time as they will be less fidgety about it. It can stall all night if they can handle it. Check from time to time and see how the skin is around the ear, you always to make sure your child is never having a reaction to any natural remedy! Repeat as needed. If your child is having issues in both ears, you can do one at a time or both at the same time what ever is easiest on your child.
The Essential Oil Method
Using essential oils can be very helpful when trying to deal with ear infections. The best oil is Melaleuca (Tea Tree) but you can try any single oil or blend to massage around the ear, Thyme I would keep away from children under one. There are two ways to apply essential oils for an ear infection: 1) as a massage, gently rub all around the ear, not so much on the ear itself. More behind the ear and on the neck part of ear and where the ear sort of meets the cheek bone. This is what I mean by around the ear. 2) add 1 drop of either a single oil or a blend to a large cotton ball and place inside the ear ( not to far just tucked in a little) again using a scarf, or hat or a little first aid tape to hold in place.
Try this blend:
1 dr Roman Chamomile, 2 dr Lavender, 1 dr Melaleuca in 2 Tbs of Carrier OIl. Once it is all mixed only use 1 drop of this blend to use on the cotton ball. For the massage just dip one finger in the mixture and rub, save the rest for two hours later. Consistency is key. Application every few hours is helpful, not just once!
If the child is older and it is very very bad you can try this blend:
3 dr Melaleuca, 1 dr Thyme, 2 dr Lavender in 2 Tbs of Carrier Oil.
The Garlic Oil Method
Garlic Oil is another natural remedy which helps clear up infections, it has natural antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This oil actually goes into the ear canal. However, I would suggest getting an otoscope if your child is prone to ear infections. You never want to put anything actually into the ear until you are sure there is no rupture of the ear canal, like a burst ear drum. This simple tool allows you to take a quick peek inside and see what is up. If it looks like a burst ear drum I would head straight to the doctor! (it comes with pictures so you don't have to be a doctor to recognize it) Warm up two drops and place into ear. Repeat daily.
If food allergies are not the culprit of reoccurring ear infections you may want to take a visit to the chiropractor. Sometimes after our babies are birthed things are not always aligned how they should be. It can be as simple as a little tap or a quick maneuver which can bring a more natural flow to the body and help treat or prevent further ear infections.
So how are ear infections caused?
Some are viral and some are bacterial. Often they come from allergies or teething. During the summer months they even come from swimming, known as swimmers ear! Swimmer's ear is when water gets trapped in the ear canal due to a build up of wax and it then starts to produce bacteria (we have treated Dexter using the same methods above every summer as he is prone to swimmers ear). Usually if an ear infection is re-ocurring you may want to look at the possibility of a food allergy or a gut imbalance ( which can come from the over use of antibiotics). You can get a basic food sensitivity test and start there. Middle ear infections tend to come from air bourn allergies or respiratory infections, such as a cold. This is when the ears get blocked by fluid build up in the ear. However, if these infections are viral which is the most common case, antibiotics are not effective with viral infections. Last but not least, an ear infection can also happen do to air pressure change when traveling.
Why not treat all ear infections with antibiotics?
Amoxicillin has usually been the first choice of treatment by doctors. The side effects of amoxicillin include upset stomach, diarrhea, allergic reactions, and diaper rashes. These are pretty mild but it is the long term use which can be more profound. Doctors are finding that there are many causes for ear infections and children who suffer from reoccurring ones arnt usually due to a viral or bacterial infection. So antibiotics will not help! It is about finding the source which is causing them to return, which normally comes down to an allergy of some kind. So what happens when a doctor keeps prescribing antibiotics for a reoccurring ear infection? As we know antibiotics go after the bad bacteria but they also go after the good bacteria too, these are the ones we need to help us fight infections. When too much bacteria has diminished then yeast tends to over grow. This tends to brings down our immune system, which then leads to recurrent infections. Over the years the more antibiotics your body is exposed to the more your immune system gets suppressed. It also means that your bodies bacteria can start to survive the drugs which means it becomes harder and harder for the antibiotic to work. Again, over the years if ever faced with a serious illness you could be in a tricky situation where the antibiotics are not working or they have to triple the dose or find some other drug to replace it. It is a true practice that there is prescribing of antibiotics by some doctors to treat colds, coughs, runny noses or flu. Most upper respiratory infections are viral. Treating them with antibiotics is clear and blatant misuse, since the drugs kill only bacteria and are of no value at all in treating viral infections. There are treatments that can relieve the symptoms of a cold, but there is no drug (over-the-counter or prescription) that will cure a cold. We need to open our minds to trusting our bodies to heal themselves with the help of mother nature. We don't always need to run to the doctor for every little thing because sadly most doctors do not have any experience with treating any aliments naturally. If you do need to give yourself or your child antibiotics, make sure it is for the correct diagnosis and the last means of treatment. Always use probiotics to replace the good bacteria after antibiotic use.
When to go to the doctor?
First off go with your gut, as mother if something is feeling off, just go to the doctor!! Symptoms to look out for which can mean things may be more of concern are: Fever over 102, dizziness, hearing loss, increasing pain. Redness, swelling or loss of movement around the ear. Objects stuck inside ear, do not try to be a hero! If symptoms do not get any better over 48 hours.
Other methods to help calm and rid Ear Infections:
Warm compresses or using a hot water bottle
Lots of water intake helps fluid build up. Omegas are rich in fat help reduce inflammation and help allergies. Bone broth and Vitamin C rich food for natural minerals and vitamins to boost the immune system. No dairy, no sugar, no wheat. You can add Vitamin D, K, C and Echinacea. If you have an infant try a squirt of Breast Milk!!