What Helps When your Toddler or Child has an Ear Infection

Ear infections 

Ear infections seem to be the ailment of choice lately for kids and adults too! Every facebook group I am in has had multiple posts that look something like this 

  1. Is there anywhere besides emergency that I can get my kid checked for an ear infection 
  2. What can I do, besides tylenol and advil to help with an ear infection 

Today I am going to cover everything you need to know about ear infections! While it is very unfortunate that in a lot of places it is next to impossible to get your child seen for an ear infection, there is a lot you can do to help manage them at home. I will also cover things that you can do to help prevent ear infections, and when you should seek medical attention. 

For starters, when people are talking about “ear infections' ' they usually mean otitis media which is an infection of the middle ear, just behind the eardrum. You can also have what is usually called swimmers ear or otitis externa which is inflammation or infection of the ear canal (aka where your finger or a q-tip can reach…but remember never to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear) 

Ear infections are more common in children because the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the sinus, is more horizontal in children under the age of 5-6. The tube being more horizontal can contribute to fluid stagnating in it more easily and becoming infected. Fluid can also stagnate in the Eustacian tubes if the adenoids are enlarged


50% of children will have had an ear infection by the time they reach 2 years old, and 75% of children experience one before starting school. The most common age range for ear infections is 3-24 months. The good news is that for most ear infections, approximately 80% are attributed to viruses and will get better without the use of antibiotics. For children 6 months of age and older, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends watching and waiting for 48 hours with an ear infection unless the child has a fever of more than 39 C (102.2 F), are moderate to severely sick otherwise, or have significant ear pain. So learning how to manage an ear infection in those first 48 hours is an important skill to have! It can help from a comfort point of view, and can reduce the chance of them needing antibiotics for treatment 

Ways to Help Prevent an Ear Infection

  1. Xylitol Nasal Spray- Xylitol and saline nasal spray has been shown to reduce the ability of viruses and bacteria to bind to the epithelium in the nose. It also helps to improve airflow and reduce swelling in the nasal passage which allows the Eustacain tubes to drain better
  2. Using a HEPA air filter, especially in the child’s bedroom to help reduce dust and environmental allergies 
  3. Dairy reduction/elimination- dairy is a mucus forming food for people who are sensitive to it, and it can increase fluid stagnation in the Eustachian tubes 

What to do When you Think your Child has an Ear Infection 

First I am going to review the red flags of an ear infection. As stated above, if it is lasting more than 48 hours, or they have a fever of greater than 39 C (102.2F), are looking unwell or are experiencing severe ear pain, they should be seen by a doctor. 

  1. Castor Oil Massage- applying castor oil behind the ears and dragging your fingers down the neck gently can help increase the movement of lymph and fluid. 
  2. St Francis Ear Oil- If the eardrum is not ruptured- signs of rupture include discharge from the ear canal, an/or pain that is bad and then goes away suddenly- These drops contain mullein, garlic, calendula and St john’s wort. Mullein has pain relieving qualities as well as being antibacterial and antiviral. Garlic is antiviral and antibacterial. St John’s Wort helps with any type of nerve related pain and calendula is antiinflammatory. The drops can taken 5 drops, 3 times a day 

And now for the one that may sound a little out there- Onion Ear Muffs 

Onion ear muffs, also known as an Onion Poultice, are very helpful for pain management and stopping a viral ear infection from turning into a bacterial ear infection. This works because quercetin in the onion is a strong anti-inflammatory and helps to move fluid and reduce swelling. This helps to facilitate drainage of the Eustachian tubes, which reduces the pressure from the fluid build up behind the eardrum and greatly helps to reduce the pain. 

How to do Onion Ear Muffs for Ear Infection

  1. Cut an onion in half 
  2. Place the cut half down in a frying pan and saute in olive oil on low for 5-10 minutes (until it smells like you are cooking onions) 
  3. Remove from heat and wrap in a tea towel, cheesecloth or other thin cloth 
  4. Allow to cool, then hold over ear for at least 5 min, up to 30 min, 

Can do 3-5 times a day to help relieve the pain associated with an ear infection. 

So there you have it, how to treat an ear infection at home. The nice part is almost everyone has an onion hanging around and can do this soon after the first symptoms are reported to stop the ear infection from getting worse and more painful. 

If you found this helpful, share it with your friends who have small kids. 

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