Of the different types of ear infection, otitis media, or middle ear infection, is the most common. In the past, the first line of treatment for middle ear infection was antibiotics. Antibiotics remain a standard treatment for acute middle ear infection. For mild to moderate otitis media, medical professionals have come to rely more heavily on natural remedies for ear infection, such as time, rest, heat, warm oil drops and fluids.
Causes of ear infection include congestion associated with the common cold, allergies or other upper respiratory viral illnesses. The most common ear infection symptoms include fatigue, earache, fever and drainage from the ear if the eardrum ruptures. Signs that a young child might have an ear infection also might include fussiness, tugging or pulling at the affected ear, trouble falling or staying asleep and loss of appetite.
Medical practitioners have become increasingly reluctant to prescribe antibiotics to treat ear infections, because the overuse of antibiotics has led to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria. There is an adage that time heals all wounds, and time is prime among the natural remedies for ear infection. It is recommended that one should wait as long as 72 hours for individuals age 6 months and older who are suspected of having a mild to moderate ear infection before resorting to antibiotic treatment.
While waiting for the body’s natural defenses time to work, ear infection symptoms can be managed using a number of other natural remedies for ear infection. Individuals with an ear infection often experience fatigue. This might be a natural result of the body’s immune system response in fighting the infection or a result of sleep disturbance because of pain associated with the ear infection. Regardless of its cause, it is important for the sufferer to get sufficient rest until the infection passes.
If the pain associated with an ear infection is causing sleep disturbances, heat and warm oil drops are among the other most commonly recommended natural remedies to manage ear infection symptoms. Placing a warm damp washcloth, water bottle, heating pad or even a warm potato in a sock on the affected ear will improve circulation and help relieve pressure in the middle ear and on the ear drum. Two or three drops of warm olive, vegetable or garlic oil placed in the ear canal with a sterile dropper also will serve the same function. To avoid burns, one should test the temperature of the warm compresses or oil drops before applying it to the affected ear, and one should drain the oil from the ear canal after a few minutes.
Swallowing is one of the more frequently recommended natural remedies for ear infection. The physical action of swallowing relieves pressure on the middle ear and ear drum and decreases the pain associated with ear infection. Parents of young children with ear infections might have difficulty getting their children to swallow on command. Offering a child frequent sips of a non-carbonated, sugar-free beverage will encourage swallowing and should provide relief. In addition to relieving pressure and pain in the ear, both adults and children will reap the added benefit of maintaining proper hydration, which is always important during any illness.
Although they are rare, complications can arise from untreated ear infections. These complications can include hearing loss and infection spreading to the bone around the ear or into the brain. If middle ear infection symptoms have not improved after 72 hours or worsen at any point, one should seek medical treatment.
Itching in the ear canal and pain that radiates to the jaw are symptoms of outer ear infection, also known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. They are not symptoms of middle ear infection. Swimmer’s ear rarely responds to natural remedies for ear infection, almost always requiring treatment with a combination of oral and topical antibiotics.