All-Natural Remedies for Ear Infections: Safe or Not?

Some parents would rather avoid antibiotics

baby crying
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My baby seems to be plagued by constant ear infections. Since she was born, it has felt like a non-stop revolving train of visits to the doctors, sleepless nights, and fevers.

Her pediatrician hasn't mentioned the possibility of tubes in her ears yet, but I'm worried the day is coming, since she has had so many ear infections. Because she has had so many ear infections, I worry about the affect of her having too many antibiotics in her system.

Antibiotics disrupt the normal flora in our digestive systems because they kill off both the "bad" bacteria and the "good" bacteria, so it's scary to think what could happen if a baby, whose system is still developing already, has too many antibiotics.

What is an Ear Infection?

Most ear infections in babies are actually middle ear infections. Middle ear infections are infections in the pocket of air behind the eardrum called the middle ear. That space is connected to the eustachian tubes, which is very short in babies and thus doesn't always keep germs out as well, so ear infections can happen more in babies.

The official recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is to treat babies 6 months and older with "severe" symptoms of an ear infection, including a fever over 102.2 and severe pain, with antibiotics.

What are the Signs of an Ear Infection in a Baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics described symptoms of an ear infection as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Rubbing of the ear
  • Poor appetite
  • Fever
  • Irritability

Are there Any Natural Remedies for Ear Infections in Babies?

The AAP does acknowledge that there are a lot of natural remedies for ear infections, but it says that there aren't enough studies to prove that those remedies work.

Treating ear infections naturally is tough because the infection in an ear is a closed infection, meaning it can be difficult to do anything outside of the body that will treat the infection.

Some websites suggest using garlic oil, for example, but the barrier inside the ear will prevent the oil from actually getting into the middle portion of the ear, where the infection actually is. That's why antibiotics are more effective, because they work from the inside out.

I know how tempting it is to try to use natural remedies for an ear infection, especially in babies, but let me caution you with this story: Two weeks ago, my daughter was diagnosed with yet another ear infection and even though the doctor prescribed her antibiotics to treat it, I decided not to use them. (I know, I know.) I really, really wanted to treat her ear infection naturally and decided to use a home remedy of essential oils applied outside her ear. The treatment seemed to work, for a few days, anyways, and then suddenly, she got much, much worse.

Almost seemingly overnight, my daughter's single ear infection had turned into a horrible, awful double ear infection, a sinus infection, and even an infection in both eyes, with drainage coming from both eyes. I felt awful and in my quest to avoid antibiotics, I only succeeded in forcing her to get an even stronger type of antibiotic by letting the infection run rampant.

It was a big lesson to me that sometimes "natural" remedies aren't always best. I am still a proponent for exploring all types of treatments and avoiding antibiotics whenever possible, but I also had to learn the hard way that when it comes to babies and ear infections, it's also best to seek immediate medical treatment for an ear infection before it develops into something worse.

The AAP also notes that even if your baby is on antibiotics for an ear infection, those antibiotics won't necessarily take away the pain of an ear infection, even for several days, so be sure to use a pain reliever to relieve the pain associated with an ear infection.

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