Is your child tugging or pulling at their ear(s)? If yes, then your child may be having ear pain. Ear pain is a hallmark of childhood, and most children experience an earache at least once before adulthood. Ear pain can be sharp and piercing and cause a lot of discomfort to your child.
Anyone can get an ear infection, but children get them more often than adults. Five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders .
In many cases, ear pain in kids can be a sign of a bacterial infection. But it can also be due to congestion, a change in air pressure, cavities, sinus infections, earwax and tonsillitis.
Apart from tugging at the ear, other signs that your child may have ear pain include fussiness, crying, trouble sleeping, a mild fever and fluid draining from the ear.
If your child has ear pain, there are some simple and effective home remedies that can provide quick relief.
Caution: The problem can be serious if your child is showing symptoms like clumsiness, problems with balance, trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds, a fever or facial swelling. In which case, see your doctor immediately.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for ear pain in kids.
1. Warm Compress
As soon as possible, apply some heat to the painful ear to bring some comfort. The heat will reduce pain and even prevent microorganisms from multiplying.
- Dip a clean washcloth in lukewarm water, ring out the excess water and place the washcloth on the painful ear for 5 minutes. Wait 10 minutes, then repeat the process as needed.
- Alternatively, press a warm water bottle or heating pad against the painful ear.
- Another option is to heat 1 cup of salt on stove or in the microwave, put the warm salt on a piece of cloth, tie it in a bundle and place it on the affected ear for 10 minutes at a times. Use as needed.
Note: The warm compress may make your child uncomfortable and this can cause a lot of squirming.
2. Cold Compress
Just like warm compress, you can also treat your child’s ear pain at home with a cold compress. The cold temperature will numb the nerves around the ears, which in turn will reduce the pain.
- Soak a washcloth in cool water and wring it out.
- Put the washcloth over the ear that’s bothering your child.
- Do it for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- Repeat as needed.
You can also prepare a cold compress by wrapping some ice cubes in a thin towel. But never put ice directly on the skin, as it can cause frostbite.
Garlic is an effective home remedy to quickly deal with earaches in kids.
Its analgesic and antibiotic properties can help reduce earaches caused by an ear infection.
- Heat 1 teaspoon of minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Cool and filter the oil. Put 2 or 3 drops of this garlic oil in the affected ear. You can use the homemade ear drops 2 or 3 times a day.
- To prevent ear infections from recurring, try to make your child eat a clove of garlic each day.
4. Breast Milk
Breast milk has natural antibodies that can help speed up the healing process of any kind of ear infection.
A 2016 study published in Pediatrics found that the rates of ear infections during a baby’s first year declined due to breastfeeding. Also, the use of vaccinations and lower smoking rates are major contributors .
This study clearly indicates that breastfeeding is a good option to protect your baby from earaches.
In addition to breastfeeding, you can put a few drops of breast milk into the affected ear using a dropper to reduce pain. Repeat every few hours as needed.
5. Olive Oil
If there is no fluid draining from your child’s ear and no sign of a ruptured eardrum, olive oil is a good remedy.
The oil serves as a lubricant and helps get rid of an infection in the ear.
- Warm a little olive oil to a lukewarm temperature.
- Tip your child’s head to the side and, with a dropper, put 3 to 5 drops in the affected ear.
- Put a cotton ball in the ear to prevent the oil from leaking out.
- Do this 1 or 2 times a day.
6. Chiropractic Treatment
This is another effective treatment to deal with pain due to ear infections in infants and children.
The nerves at the upper neck affect the health and function of the inner ear and surrounding tissues. At times, spinal misalignments can interfere with proper neurological control and regulation and make one more susceptible to an infection.
Chiropractors locate and correct areas of spinal misalignment by using very little pressure, leading to more normal nervous system functioning.
A 1996 study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics indicates that the addition of chiropractic care to limited medical care may decrease the symptoms of ear infections in young children .
7. Sleeping Position
Your child’s sleeping position can either aggravate or reduce ear pain.
Lying down flat can sometimes worsen the feeling of pressure and pain in the infected ear. Hence, it is recommended to consider changing the sleeping position and opt for an elevating position.
- For older children, put an additional pillow under the head and encourage them to sleep on the unaffected side. Sleeping on the affected side will aggravate pain from ear infections.
- For young infants, elevate the crib at the head by placing a pillow or two under the mattress.
If your child’s ear pain follows a cold or upper respiratory infection, using a humidifier in the room where your child sleeps will help a lot. Breathing in moist air helps ease pain by reducing swelling in the upper airway and relieving pressure against the eardrum.
You can buy a humidifier or simply keep a bowl of water in the room to help increase the moisture in the air.
Whether you are using a humidifier or a bowl of hot water, be sure to place it in a safe place to prevent accidents. Also, make sure to keep it clean to prevent mold growth.
9. Warm Steam
One of the best home remedies to relieve ear pain in children due to congestion or a sinus infection is steam inhalation.
Steam helps alleviate congestion and fight a sinus infection, which can help make breathing a bit easier. The warmth of the moisture will also thin the mucus to make it easier to expel.
- For small babies and children, run a hot shower and keep the door shut to prevent steam from escaping. Sit with your baby in the steam-filled bathroom and allow your child to inhale the steam for at least 30 minutes a day.
- For older children, use a large bowl full of hot water and have your child inhale the steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat 1 or 2 times a day.
10. Sucking or Chewing
One of the key reasons behind ear pain in babies and children is a change in air pressure that can often occur while travelling by air or driving at higher altitudes.
In such cases, the process of sucking or chewing can help a lot in reducing the pressure in the Eustachian tubes, offering some relief.
- Babies who are nursing may feel better when allowed and encouraged to nurse as frequently as possible. Babies can also be offered a bottle or pacifier.
- Older children can suck on hard candy or cough drops.
- Children older than 4 can even chew gum to unclog their ears.
- Give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to ease earaches. However, consult your doctor first.
- Avoid overuse of antibiotics, as it may often lead to antibiotic-resistant infections.
- You can also try acupressure to deal with ear pain.
- After your child’s shower or bath, use a blow dryer at a low setting to dry the ears to prevent water from settling in the ears.
- If you bottle feed your baby, hold the infant in a semi-upright position to prevent formula from flowing back into the Eustachian tubes.
- Ear Infections in Children. National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/ear-infections-children. Published October 25, 2017.
- Breastfeeding, vaccinations help reduce ear infection rates in babies. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160328084906.htm. Published March 28, 2016.
- Ear infection: a retrospective study examining improvement from chiropractic care and analyzing for influencing factors. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8728460.