Ear Infections: Treatments and Prevention

By: Alex Pinchot, ND

Ear infections are not only very uncomfortable for children but they make us parents want to do whatever we can to help our children. This not only leads parents to search for any treatment possible but in the past physicians have used antibiotics more than what is helpful. A recent study(1) found that based on the American Academy of Pediatricians recommendations over half of children prescribed antibiotics for ear infections should have used watchful waiting instead of antibiotics. This is where naturopathic treatments can shine. There is a lot that can be done for ear infections while not using antibiotics. In a study from 2003(2) herbal ear drops alone reduced ear pain and symptoms faster than ear drops with oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics, or topical anesthetic. Not only are Naturopathic herbal ear drops more helpful than antibiotics alone but they are more helpful without antibiotics.

Naturopathic treatments for acute ear infections:

It is important to consult your Naturopathic Physician before starting any treatments. Do not put anything into an ear without knowing that the eardrum is not broken.

  • Herbal Ear Drops:

Garlic and mullein oil is a soothing and antimicrobial treatment for earaches. Calendula and St John’s wart oils can be a great addition to this formula. It is important to make sure the ear drum is not ruptured before putting anything into the ear.

  • Onion Poultice :

Grate half an onion, place in cheese cloth and heat in microwave. Place near the ear until cool enough to place on ear. Be careful not to burn your child. The volatile oils and heat can sooth and heal an ear infection.

  • Supplements:

Vitamin C, Probiotics, and Elderberry Syrup can help kill off offending organism and promote healthy natural flora in the ear and throat.

  • Massage:

Slowly massage from behind the ear down to the corner of the jaw. This can help open up the Eustachian tube allowing for better drainage into the throat.  

Preventing Chronic Ear Infections:

Having recurring ear infections not only is frustrating but can have long term effects including speech and hear difficulties. Ear infections are more common in children. This is because the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat, the eustachian tube, has a flatter angle in children making it drain slower.
Food allergies are a major contributor to chronic ear infections. In one study 86% of patients benefited greatly from an elimination diet and 94% of patients had recurrence of ear infections with reintroducing the suspected foods(3).  This is strong evidence that diet changes alone can have profound effects on recurrent ear infections.

  • Hydration:

Maintaining proper hydration is important for the immune system to function properly and to thin mucus so it can drain.

  • Chewable Probiotics:

Chewing probiotics allows for the beneficial bacteria to get to the ears, nose and throat before going to the digestive system. Remember that not all supplements are created equally. Probiotics are especially important to get form a reputable source so they are active and don’t contain anything you don't want.

  • Food Allergies:

Using an elimination and re-challenge diet is the gold standard for determining what foods a re contributing to systemic inflammation. 


1) Sun, D, & McCarthy, TJ (2017 Mar). Cost-effectiveness of Watchful Waiting in Acute Otitis Media. Pediatrics, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28258074
2) Sarrell, EM, & Cohen, HA(2003 May). Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics, 111(5 Pt 1):. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12728112
3) Nsouli, TM, & Nsouli SM(1994 Sep). Role of food allergy in serous otitis media. Ann Allergy, 73(3), 215-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=8092554

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