By the age of 3, most children will suffer from some type of earache. The most common reason for earache is infection in the external ear canal or the middle ear. Infection may be caused by fungus, viral or bacterial organisms and may be associated with teething, chest colds, and fever. Sharp, throbbing pain and pressure, often in the middle of the night, causes children to cry and parents to look for comfort measures.
Heat increases circulation, helping the body to fight infection, and it is soothing. There are various ways to warm a hurting ear. Whenever remedies are instilled as eardrops, it helps to warm them. This can be done by heating a spoon on the stove and then placing the remedy in the hot spoon. A hot water bottle covered with a towel can be placed on a bed and the child can lay the affected ear against it. A damp rag in a zip-close bag microwaved for 30 to 45 seconds also provides warm moist heat. A sock can be filled with dry rice and microwaved on high for 30 minutes to provide a half hour of heat. Using a blow dryer near the ear, on a low setting and constantly moving, is very soothing to small children. Ear candling is effective if the child will lay still. A cone made of wax-coated gauze is placed with the point in the ear. Cover the side of the head around the ear to protect the child from loose cinders. A pie tin with a hole cut in the center works well for this. The child relaxes while an adult lights the wide end of the cone. The funnel directs heat into the ear and draws moisture out. A pan of water should be nearby to extinguish the cone. Ear candles come with directions and can be purchased at health food stores. When using any heating method, cover and test carefully to avoid burns. Do not use a heating pad for infants or elderly persons.
Four drops of the following remedies applied three or four times a day should bring relief, sometimes instantly. Tug the ear gently back and down to straighten the ear canal in children, insert drops and massage lightly. For older children and adults, pull the ear straight back.
External ear infections, or swimmer’s ear, are usually caused by fungus. Children complain of itching as well as pain. Vinegar, straight or diluted half with water, can be placed in the ear canal to change the pH and cut down on fungal colonies. Tea tree oil fights both fungal and bacterial organisms. Five to 10 drops of tea tree oil mixed in one tbsp. of olive oil is an effective solution.
Colloidal silver, garlic oil, hydrogen peroxide, onion juice and olive leaf extract have been used in the ear to relieve pain and kill germs. The antibiotic properties of human breast milk make it ideal as an earache remedy. Several drops can be expressed into a spoon and poured into the affected ear.
Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, E and Zinc boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Echinacea stops a bacterial ear infection if it is started early and taken by mouth four times a day for one week. Use a non-alcohol tincture or tablets.
Over-the-counter oral diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that dries fluid and relieves painful pressure behind the eardrum. Diphenhydramine causes drowsiness in adults but may cause hyperactivity in children under the age of 5. Decongestant nasal sprays may also open and relieve ear discomfort.