Natural Remedies for Ear Infections

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Natural Remedies for Ear Infection
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As a mom, few things in life are more difficult than seeing your child suffer, and ear infections can be a very painful part of childhood for some kids.

As a child, I had recurring ear infections and several rounds of tubes. Even though I haven’t had one since I was about 5, I still vividly remember the pain of my ear infections (even more so than the pain of Strep throat and other illnesses I had).

Thankfully, my own children have largely avoided most childhood illnesses, (maybe because of our diet?) but we have had two cases of ear infections (with five kids 8 and under, I’m not complaining at all!). Even so, it is difficult to watch a little one suffer, and I completely understand the impulse to run to the doctor to get immediate relief. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy.

What Causes Ear Infections?

When my first son got an ear infection when he was a few months old, I took him to our family doctor for relief. Ear infections are the second most common childhood illness and they can be serious if they don’t resolve, so I wanted to be proactive. Both of my parents have hearing loss, so I wanted to be especially careful to protect his eardrums.

To my surprise, our doctor suggested warm compresses, extra nursing, a few drops of breastmilk in the ear and extra sleep for a few days before trying anything stronger. He explained that not every ear infection needs antibiotics. In fact, he said most resolve on their own with proper support and the overuse of antibiotics can actually cause bigger problems for the child (and for society) later on as bacteria become increasingly resistant to them.

In hindsight, I am so grateful for a doctor who took this approach and spent the time educating me. We moved to a new town since then, so when our other child was struck with an ear infection last year, I didn’t have that doctor’s sage advice. This time, the child wasn’t nursing so breastmilk wasn’t an option. The local doc couldn’t even get us in for a few days. I considered urgent care but decided to research and try some natural remedies for a day unless things got worse.

In researching, I found that not every ear ache is caused by an infection and that sometimes they can be a sign of teething or allergies. I also found that many times, a virus and not bacteria is to blame for the infection, so antibiotics wouldn’t be effective anyway.

Some sources I read also suggested that recurring ear infections can be a sign of a food allergy or gut imbalance. This made a lot of sense to me as I was on antibiotics constantly as a child, had many ear infections, and later found out I was intolerant to several foods.

Ear infections can be caused by swimming, something lodged in the ear, or other external factors.

When Medical Care is Needed

New guidelines from the AAP recommend a more conservative approach to ear infection treatment for doctors (source) and provide warning signs for parents. They recommend taking a child in if:

  • The child has dizziness, hearing loss or increasing pain
  • The child has a fever of over 102
  • Child experiences any redness, swelling or loss of movement around the sore ear
  • An object is lodged in the ear
  • You suspect that the eardrum has burst
  • Symptoms do not lessen within 48 hours

A “wait and see” approach is often recommended if:

  • A child over 6 months has pain in one ear and a fever of less than 102
  • A child over two years has pain in both ears and a fever of less than 102
  • The pain seems to be lessening and none of the other warning factors are present

Home Remedies for Ear Infections

For our child, we fell in the “wait and see” category, so I didn’t take him in immediately but wanted to find ways to comfort him and help his body recover quickly.

After researching many remedies (including the uncommon remedy of using urine in the ear) we settled on these natural remedies and he was pain free within 24 hours:

Important: I only felt comfortable putting these remedies on/around his ear because we were able to verify with an otoscope that his eardrum had not ruptured. I would never put anything in or around the ear if I suspected the ear drum had ruptured

Elderberry Syrup

A natural remedy I always have on hand, especially in the winter, to ward off illness. Elderberry syrup has naturally antiviral properties that may help speed recovery from ear infections and it is an easy one to get the kids to take because it is delicious!

This is how I make it at home.

Warm Compresses

I found that the pain of the ear infection could be lessened by a warm compress. We tried a hot water bottle, a rice heating pack, and a warm, wet wash cloth and both seemed to work well. He preferred the wash cloth so I added some soothing dried chamomile and rosemary to the water for an extra boost and changed the wash cloth out frequently to keep it warm.

Garlic Poultices or Oil

This seemed to be the most effective remedy, as our son fell asleep really quickly after we started this and slept through the night. He woke up feeling much better.

Garlic is a potent natural antibiotic and antiviral but it can be too harsh for a child’s skin when used alone. To remedy this, I sliced some garlic and placed the slices between four sheets of gauze (two on each side of the garlic). I sewed the edges shut (taping it would have been easier) and used a bandana tied around his head to secure it.

The gauze kept the garlic from touching his skin directly but was porous enough to let the beneficial properties of the garlic get into the ear.

We repeated this treatment the next night to be safe but he was symptom free after the first night. I’ve also heard of using onions in the same way, but I had garlic on hand so I used it.

An Amish friend swears by this remedy for more than just ear aches. If any of her children get sick, she makes similar poultices of garlic and onion and places on the feet, inside socks, during sleep. She said it hasn’t failed her yet. I’ve only tried once and it was really effective for my cold.

I also now keep garlic oil on hand for use if any of the kids start to complain of itching or pain in the ear and we’ve avoided ear infections since starting this.

Lots of Fluids and Broth

Just as with an illness or infection, it is important to keep the body hydrated and supported nutritionally. Homemade bone broth is an easy way to accomplish this.

We almost always have some broth in the fridge or on the stove, but I keep some in the freezer as well for use during illness.

Ever dealt with an ear infection naturally? What remedies did you use?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


88 responses to “Natural Remedies for Ear Infections”

  1. April Avatar

    Several times I’ve used a couple drops of hydrogen peroxide in the ear canal and it has worked almost instantly every single time.

  2. Mollie Avatar

    Checked this list out yesterday while my six year old cried in pain (claiming to by dying). Used warm compresses and garlic oil. He’s fine today. Thanks for the advice!

  3. Kristin Dunlap Avatar
    Kristin Dunlap

    Could you use shallots in place of garlic and get the same effect for ear infection? What about ACV in the ears?

  4. Chris Avatar

    My 9 year old son has had many ear infections and we’ve tried avoiding antibiotics each time but nothing worked so we’d usually end up at the doctor with him in immense pain. The last time he complained of a sore ear, I tried apple cider vinegar (expecting to head to the doctor with him in the following days, but figured it was worth a try) and it worked! Be sure to use a good quality ACV with mother like Bragg organic, raw, unfiltered. Put a few drops in the ear canal, let sit for a few minutes then let it drain out. It worked for us, and no other natural remedy has! Very happy I found this remedy online!

    1. Barbara Avatar

      How often did you do this for it to clear up completely? My 8 month old has an ear infection and looking for natural remedies. Not liking him being on antibiotics

  5. Sarah Avatar

    So does goat milk (raw or powdered) cause mucous, etc like cow dairy in young children and/or adults?

  6. Shalimar Avatar

    Ok, I know you aren’t a doctor, but I guess I would still like some advice. Based on your guidelines above, we will prob head to Dr tomorrow which bums me out, but curious what I can do in meantime. We are at 102 fever, fussiness, almost at 48 hours, and increasing pain. We are new to natural remedies and real food so I don’t have everything on hand and am miles away from an herb shop or health store. My son is just 6 months old and I am breastfeeding. Tried garlic poultice yesterday and breast milk in ear. I think the garlic burned his outer ear. not sure if I had it wrapped secure enough in the gauze. I’ve even started doing raw garlic in honey (1 clove to 1 tsp) in hopes of it passing through breastmilk. So main questions are what is safe for 6 month old directly, and what is safe for me going through breastmilk? i have (though not organic or best available, mostly in pill form except where noted) echinacea, organic echinacea tea, cod liver oil, vit c, vit d, garlic (cloves), apple cider vinegar, olive oil, coconut oil (organic), onion, honey and some OTC homeopathic ear drops (but contains citric acid and sodium benzoate as inactive ingredients). Since the garlic prob burned his ear, should I even try the olive oil/garlic mix? Since I’m new to all this, I’m terrified of not providing best and of starting antibiotics. I think I also have some lavender massage oil, but I don’t even remember where it came from. He’s been sleeping and nursing most of day. We did see the chiropractor but only temporary relief and she is closed tomorrow. Anyone please help! May be breaking out the motrin!! Help!!

  7. Kathy Webster Avatar
    Kathy Webster

    I don’t have fresh garlic or onion on hand, but use dried flakes of each for cooking. Do you think soaking flakes in olive oil would be any benefit rather than using plain olive oil in the ear? This is for an adult, with irritated middle and outer ear swollen shut, some fluid, no fever. Lavender and tea tree have in the past been very irritating.

  8. quianna Avatar

    So my first son started getting ear infections when he was about five months old all before i tried to do everything naturally. He would spike a fever of 103 and we’d go in, he’d have an ear infection and wed do antibiotics. This went on for months until he had tubes put in. Well my second son is 4.5 months and spiked a fever of 103.8. I took him in and sure enough his ear was red. The dr gave me antibiotics but i still haven’t used them. We’re on day two of high fevers, garlic drops, cool rags on head, lots of nursing, acv baths and by tomorrow I’ll be giving him his antibiotic because this isnt ok. Im not sure what else i can do but I’m terrified this is going to end up the same as my first kiddo. What else can i do?

  9. Deb Avatar

    Please remember to not put any thing in your child’s ear unless you know, via an otoscope, that the eardrum is intact. This area is so close to the brain…

  10. Julie Reese Avatar
    Julie Reese

    Great ideas! I use a little olive oil and mince garlic into it, then warm on the stove, add a couple shakes of cinnamon. Then I strain out the chunks and store in a small jar. Use a dropper to administer drops into the affected ear(s) and let the drops sit down in the ear canal for a minute or 2. Readminister several times a day with a hot compress. This always works within a day or 2.

  11. Judy Nannles Avatar
    Judy Nannles

    Colloidal Silver works a treat whenever I get an earache/infection. Lie on your side wide the affected ear facing up. Drop 3 drops of C.S. into the ear and lie still for 5 minutes, the turn over and let any excess run into a tissue. Repeat this process as often as needed.

  12. ashly Avatar

    For me on the rare occasion that my kids have ear infections I rub Meleleuca, Lavender and/or Basil essential oil behind the ear and down the jaw line. For us it takes the pain away in minutes and clears up in record time. 🙂

  13. Cheryl F. Avatar

    Hi! My son is having an ear pain for 3days now. He’s not feverish and still very active. His ear is not smelly either. He just doesn’t want it to be touched by anything. He doesn’t even want to lie on the side of the painful ear. Nothing changed on his behavior except that cries whenever his ear is touched. Do you think it’s an ear infection? We’re 4 hours away from our Pedia as we don’t live in the city.

  14. Ash-leigh Avatar

    My son has had a ear problem for a while, his 7 months old and doctors don’t seem to be helping!!! Just a quick question, how much elderberry syrup does he need a day? Also is there an alternative to using honey as baby can’t have honey until 1 years old…

    1. Lea Avatar

      I’m not Katie, but I’m a mom of six, using these remedies for 13 years. You can give a baby 1/4 an adult dose of whatever elderberry syup you use. And maple syrup is a great substitution for babies and can even be soothing to their tummies. Also, I was advised to rub tea tree oil mixed with olive oil (or whatever your favorite carrier oil is) at a ratio of 2 parts carrier to 1 part tea tree. I rub it inside the ear well (NOT THE CANAL) and on the back down to thend baby’s jaw. It stopped earache in the middle of the night on several occasions.
      Hope you find hope, and Katie can answer soon.

  15. angela Avatar

    I’ve just put raw organic coconut oil in my 20 month old’s ears while he’s sleeping hoping to help him recover from his (not painful) ear infections. He’s also got a throat infection the doc says and wants me to give him antibiotics. However, I want to wait the 72 hours to see if he will improve on his own. His temp has been around 39 without calpol/neurofen which I only give in the evenings because I want to let the fever do its job. Question is, I’ve just taken his temperature and it seems to be wrong (too low) – I’m assuming the coconut oil is hindering the ear thermometer from reading the temperature properly?

  16. Marni Shymkus Avatar
    Marni Shymkus

    Breastmilk is the answer. Straight from your breast (not refrigerated). It works every time. Breastmilk is a great salve too (for burns or rashes).

  17. kelly perry Avatar
    kelly perry

    Pine Bark extract also known as arabinogalactan cures ear infection or Otis media in children, fda approved as a fiber it safe for infant use.l It was originally discovered by Cartier who helped the settlers cross the mountains. The settlers got scurvy the American indians. made a tea from the bark of the larix tree that cured the scurvy. There is tons of research available on this ingredient. The powder works the best, other opcs work better for other things strenghthing collagen etc. too many to list. Hope this helps other people as it has been a life saver for me.

  18. Gina Tyler Avatar
    Gina Tyler

    Ear infections are very common in babies/toddlers that are vaccinated.
    Do a google search for more data on that-
    Cow dairy for sure makes ear infections 100% worse,keep away from all cowdairy
    A “simple” acute ear inf can be treated with chamomile Homeopathic remedy
    Yes correct Antibiotics do nothing for ear inf .
    infact it will come back with a vengeance

  19. Malori Avatar

    Would any of these remedies possibly work for inflamed itchy ears? I have issues with psoriasis and my doctor told me that the inside of my ears looked red and flaky. Itchy ears are the worst!! I have sometimes woken myself (and my husband!) up with itching my ears in my sleep.

    1. Katie Avatar

      Get off gluten and dairy to get rid of psoriasis – that was my experience.

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