Natural Remedies for Ear Infections

Katie Wells Avatar

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This post contains affiliate links.

Read my affiliate policy.

Natural Remedies for Ear Infection
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Natural Remedies for Ear Infections

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. Juliana Avatar

    Hi! I was wondering if you had any recommendations for earbuds to prevent hearing damage! I know there are noise-cancelling headphones – I was wondering if there are any headphones for regular use you recommend! Or any best practices for healthy ears and vibrant hearing!

  2. Felicia Avatar

    I cannot thank The Wellness Mama enough for this post! I was always a “traditional medicine” mom for making my child comfortable when sick. This year, I found The Wellness Mama podcast and have learned SO much about caring for myself and my family naturally.
    My 5yr old son has recently developed a head cold and I have not used a fever reducer/pain reliever (as I would have in the past) and let his body fight it off naturally. Last night he woke us screaming and crying that his ear hurt and I didn’t know what to do to help him naturally. So I came to the TheWellnessMama.Com and found this post. I spent 3 hrs in the middle of the night alternating a warm compress and a garlic and olive oil poultice and it soothed him enough to finally get some rest. He says it doesn’t hurt today! I will be repeating this tonight just to be safe.
    I feel like a good mama for comforting and caring for my child in a safe and natural way……ALL thanks to Katie! You are a blessing and thank you for all you do!

  3. Aentsct Avatar

    Hi, Thanks for all the effective remedies. In Ear infection children are suffering from many things such as inflammation, pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fever, ear swelling and headache. Above the all remedies are helpful to getting relive from these problem of ear infection. But for proper knowledge and diagnosis we need to consult with ENT Specialist Doctors.

  4. Paula Avatar

    Hello. Thank you so much for the suggestions. I’ve used some of these remedies and curious if babies under a year old can have the garlic in their socks as well? And if so what’s a good portion per say? I know it’s not medical advise just curious what’s works best for your subscribers and your family 🙂

  5. Yanyra Avatar

    Wellness Mama,
    Has any of your kids had a ruptured eardrum? If so, what have you done?
    Best Regards,

  6. Erica Avatar

    OMG! You’re the BEST! I Google natural way to get rid of ear infection in kids. Because out of nowhere my son started shaking, crying, screaming saying he’s cold and his ear hurts so bad. He couldn’t sit still. (2 ear infection past month same ear since starting kindergarten) Never had them before. I’m PRO ORGANIC RAWVEGAN NO Rx meds lifestyle. So I didn’t want anymore antibiotics from his doc. My son is 6years old btw. So I read your post, I didn’t read anything else after the garlic suggestion because we’re garlic fanatics and I literally made him eat a raw clove minutes before reading your post for pain. However, I needed something more direct. I immediately sliced some garlic (2 clove pieces each into 3 slices). I don’t have gauzes so I placed mine in a really warm washcloth still a bit damp. Laid him down infected ear up. Gently squeezed the washcloth where the garlic was so the drops of water that fell into his ear were filled with the juice of the garlic. About 7-8 drops. I cried because as I walked away to get a napkin I asked him was he better. He didn’t answer because he was falling asleep instantly. I asked how was the pain “Mommy it feels good” as he started to snore. He is currently asleep and my heart is happy. Garlic is NOT A GAME PEOPLE! USE IT!!!

  7. Charlie Devin Avatar
    Charlie Devin

    What a refreshing article. As an epidemiologist (I study disease) I read so many articles telling parents to avoid a trained, certified healthcare professional and just treat at home. Prior to antibiotics, ear infections were a leading cause of death in children. This is because bacteria, viruses and fungi love to travel around the body when they can, and your ears are right near your brain, brain stem and spinal chord. Usually, outer ear infections do not need antibiotic treatment, but sometimes they do (most doctors should treat this way). If it becomes a middle ear infection, generally antibiotics are needed. As it can be difficult to tell the diference, it is really important to seek out a doctor/nurse/physician’s assistant for care. Every infection is different. You can’t assert what 1 person should do based on what worked in another case. As you said, even the pathogens are very, very different, even when the symptoms are similar. Just see a doctor to find out how to approach this 🙂

    The redness around the ear may be mastoiditis (infection of your mastoid bone). It has moved into that honeycomb of bone structure there, where it has lots of room to spread. You absolutely must go back to your doctor if you see this.

    There are many ways to improve treatment and symptoms at home, after you see a doctor, so the combination of at home and provider care is so imprortant. I love that you recommend seeing the doctor, but were diligent with your at home care. Remember that little children are so much more susceptible to disease and are more likely to develop the worst outcomes because their body is still developing and growing stronger, this includes their very complex immune system. No amount of nutritional supplements can address this more than in an incremental way. This is one reason why mortality rates for disease are so much higher in kids <5 (and in those over 65, as the immune system and overall strength of the body wanes). In the past, this wasn't better, it was much, much worse. This is an important understanding of the relationship between COMPLIMENTARY aspects of full care for health 🙂

    For those mentioning other types of care – please ASK YOUR DOCTOR (I'm not yelling, just putting emphasis). Many of the things mentioned could encourage the infection or create a new one. Food is not to be introduced into the body (except by mouth) without a doctor's recommendation. If research finds olive oil is good for 1 thing when ingested (your metabolic system is very, very different from other systems in your body and deals with food differently), then suddenly online it becomes a cure-all for everything. Just check with your doctor first please.

  8. Lia Avatar

    I just want to say I love all of the info I’ve gotten from your blog and o greatly appreciate all of the hard work and research you’ve done!
    Regarding the garlic oil for ear infections, I’d like to make my own at home. Is olive oil acceptable to use? I’ve read somewhere else that sesame seed oil or mustard oil can be used but olive oil is always available in our home. I’d love your input. Thanks!

  9. Kristen Avatar

    How does the garlic drip into the ear when you lay a slice in gauze like you did? Do you soak it in water first? I’ve never really noticed that garlic drips when you cut it, just that it’s kinda sticky. Is that sticky stuff what drips into the ear? How long does it take to drip?

  10. Sandra Avatar

    There’s so many answers to ear infections problems. =(
    As an adult, what do you recommend as a natural remedy to unclog ear? I was diagnosed with ear infection and took amoxicillin for 8 days only to find out in allergic to it on the 9th day. Then to clear the hives I ended up taking Allegra and Benadryl. But the ear is still clogged and ringing. How would I know if I have an ruptured ear drum? And how to pop this ear without rupturing it? Need desperate help!

    Thank you!

  11. Rachel Avatar

    My 13 mo old has an ear infection and the dr prescribed her antibiotics because her fever was over 102. I decided to wait on the antibiotics and have done 2 drops colloidal silver in the infected ear and have done that morning and night for 2 days. It’s day 4 of the infection and she still has a fever of 101, should I just give in to the antibiotics?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *