More than 40% of children will experience 6 or more ear infections by age 7. Research shows that as many as 80% of these ear infections will simply clear up on their own. Unfortunately, doctors are still prescribing antibiotics without investigating further, and parents are still asking for them by the droves. I know an antibiotic quick fix might sound like music to your ears, especially after a sleepless night, but there’s a chance that bottle you just picked up at the pharmacy may actually be the beginning of your woes. Let me explain…
While antibiotics do nothing to viral infections, they will, however, do plenty of harm to the good bacteria in our intestinal tracts. This bacteria, collectively referred to as our microbiome, is the very system that is in place to protect and sustain us, and damaging it often puts us on the path of recurrent illness. This cycle, once set into motion, can be incredibly difficult to reverse.
Here’s a staggering statistic that might give you pause before you run to the pharmacist: research indicates that infants who take antibiotics during their first year of life are about 50% more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than babies who never receive this medication. What’s more, a 2010 study revealed that the country’s highest prescription rate is for children under the age of two: the average American child received nearly 3 courses of antibiotics before their 2nd birthday.
Here’s the thing, antibiotics are wonderful when they are necessary, but it’s estimated that 20-50% of antibiotic use is inappropriate and that’s a conservative estimate. A healthy person should have only a few rounds of antibiotics in the course of a lifetime so asking for an antibiotic or filling the one the doctor provided you, is something you really need to think about. Perhaps it is a much wiser idea to wait 3 to 4 days and see whether the discomfort subsides. During that time, why not try one of these simple, natural home remedies that just might help knock out the infection without the dramatic side effects.
1) Tea Tree Oil
Originated from the Aboriginal people, Tea Tree Oil has been used thousands of years with excellent results. This powerful oil has antibacterial, antiseptic properties that help to fight bacteria and reduce inflammation. Not only is it powerful, but it is also relatively easy to get your hands on. Tea Tree Oil is found in a variety of preparations and comes in different concentrations as well. Mix just three drops of Tea Tree Oil with ¼ cup of water in a dropper and apply as needed, and you may experience instant relief from an earache. Unlike a doctor prescribed antibiotic, this cannot be overused, and is an excellent choice for anyone who suffers from frequent ear infections.
2) Breast Milk
Research indicates that ear infections typically occur from the ages of six to eighteen months. A natural remedy to cure an infection in children (and adults) is breast milk! Due to its plethora of antibodies, three to four drops of breast milk, placed at the entrance of the ear canal, might just solve your issue altogether.
3) Basil Oil
Essential Oils are everywhere, and if it is 100% pure, Basil Essential Oil can do amazing things for your immune system. Basil Oil is an antibacterial and antiviral substance that also decreases inflammation, while also acting as a muscle relaxant. Not only is it powerful, but it is easy to use – especially if you have little ones. By mixing a few drops of oil with a carrier oil (such as Coconut Oil) and dabbing the mixture onto the ear with a cotton ball – you might just see amazing results — and without stinging or dropping anything directly into the ear, which no one likes!
4) Warm Water Bottle
This natural remedy provides best results if used as soon as an infection has occurred. A warm water bottle, or heating pad, relieves pain associated with ear infections while also preventing micro-organism infestation. This simple home remedy is done by placing the warm bottle, heat pad or warm compress (warm washcloth) on the troubled ear, and pressing against the ear for five minute intervals. This easy pain reliever is great for those who are traveling, short on supplies at home or just want some quick relief when the pain seems unbearable.
In nature, garlic is highly microbial – possessing natural pain relieving properties. This household item is great for preventative treatment as well as for pain relief for those who are already infected. For preventative treatment, aim to eat two to three raw cloves of garlic each day to help fight infection and keep you healthy. For those who are treating an ear infection that has already occurred, boil 3-4 cloves of garlic in shallow water, crush the garlic and put mixture on a clean cloth. Place the cloth on the infection, and be prepared for some rapid pain relief!
Salt, specifically salt water, can be a tremendous help for any infection. Salt is a proven bacteria killer and preventative for further infection. This treatment is easy and effective with just a few steps. First, heat up one cup of salt in a double boiler, microwave or on low heat over the stove. Place the hot salt in a sock, and tie a knot on the sock so that is it “closed.” When it does not feel too hot to burn you, lay down and place the sock on the affected ear for five to ten minutes. The heat generated from the sock will withdraw fluid from the ears while relieving pain and swelling.
7) Eucalyptus Oil
This oil, like others on the list, is an antimicrobial, which means it has antibiotic, antifungal and/or antiviral properties. This oil has been known for its success in aromatherapy. For those new to aromatherapy treatment, this would mean dropping five or six drops of Eucalyptus Oil into a boiling pan of water, dampening a towel in the mixture and placing the towel on the face or the ear specifically.
It is estimated that 80% of immune function resides in our GI tract. Thus, when our gut flora has been compromised for any reason, we are more prone to sickness. One study showed that probiotic supplementation for infants decreased the occurrence of early acute otitis media as well as antibiotic use during the first year of life. The biggest factors to consider in determining if your little one may have a compromised gut and need probiotic supplementation are:
• Has your child ever been given antibiotics?
• Was your child delivered via Caesarian?
• If your child was born vaginally, were you given any antibiotics during the birth process?
• Was your child breastfed for the first months of life?
Depending on your answer to these, it may be possible that damaged intestinal flora is at the root of your little one’s health issues. The best way to pass probiotics along to infants is through breast milk so it is recommended that women who are expecting or nursing take probiotics themselves to pass the good flora on to their baby. There are also infant probiotic formulas that you can buy if you are not breastfeeding. Once you little one is a bit older, you’ll want to stick with an ingestible. That’s because they’re most effective when they’re swallowed!
9) Oral Probiotics
Probiotics for your oral cavities (ear, nose and throat area) are a new but revolutionary concept in the treatment and prevention of ear infections. You see, upper respiratory and ear infections are caused by a buildup of bad bacteria that travels throughout your oral cavities. When your oral microbiome is populated with strong probiotic colonies, you are equipped with natural defenses against these nasty invaders. In fact, one clinical study shows that children treated with S. salivarius K12 (a bacterial strain contained in this chewable oral probiotic formula) have a 90% reduction in sore throats and a 40% reduction in ear infections.
An added bonus is that most of these natural home remedies actually offer other health benefits and perks to your child’s body. So, the next time your youngster tugs at his ear, you might want to consider looking in the refrigerator or pantry rather than the medicine cabinet for a solution that doesn’t do more harm than good.