3 Home Remedies for an Ear Infection
Learn three doctor-approved home remedies for ear infections for adults and kids.
Your kiddo is tugging on her ear again. Uh-oh. Or maybe ear pain is keeping you up at night. No matter the age, ear infections are no fun. ENT-otolaryngologist Anh Nguyen-Huynh, MD, explains all about ear infections, and the earache remedies you can try at home.
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There are two common types of ear infections:
“There are several home remedies for earaches,” says Dr. Nguyen-Huynh. “Try these for the first two or three days if symptoms are mild.”
1. Hot or cold compress
The skinny: Grab an ice or heat pack and put it on the affected ear to help with the pain.
Doctor’s advice: The temperature you use is up to you. Wrap it in a towel to make sure it’s not too cold or too hot. You don’t want to cause any burns.
2. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
The skinny: Pain relievers work as advertised, helping take the edge off the pain.
Doctor’s advice: Both adults and kids can rest easier when they take acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the right dosage. These medications reduce pain and fever, making you feel more comfortable.
3. Sleep position
The skinny: How you sleep can affect ear pain. Rest with your head on two or more pillows, so the affected ear is higher than the rest of your body. Or if the left ear has an infection, sleep on your right side. Less pressure = less ear pain.
Doctor’s advice: It could be effective, though a few inches may not make a big difference in pressure measurement. But if it makes you feel better, go for it.
1. OTC numbing drops
Dr. Nguyen-Huynh recommends avoiding numbing drops. “The effect is very brief, and sometimes it does the opposite and stings the ear.”
Be it garlic, tea tree or olive — people swear by putting oil in the ear to help with ear infections. While garlic does have antibacterial properties, Dr. Nguyen-Huynh urges caution. If you’re using it for a middle ear infection, it won’t get to the source of the problem. And even if you do have a hole in your eardrum, there aren’t studies showing it’s safe to put garlic in there.
Dr. Nguyen-Huynh recommends seeing a doctor if:
Other common conditions, such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), can masquerade as earache infections. TMJ causes ear pain because the ear canal and the jaw joint share a nerve. “If you have ear pain along with trouble chewing, talking or yawning, then you should see a dentist or TMJ expert to be sure you’re treating the right condition,” notes Dr. Nguyen-Huynh.
The good news? Hot and cold compresses and OTC pain relievers can also help relieve TMJ pain until you sort things out.