What are conventional medical treatments for earaches?
The doctor will first inspect the ear with an otoscope to look inside the ear. When the eardrum is healthy it is pink and somewhat translucent, but when it becomes infected it gets swollen, red and inflamed.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians have said that doctors should not give antibiotics for 48 to 72 hours, but unfortunately not all doctors follow this guideline. Most earaches are caused by a virus and antibiotics cannot help these cases.
The guidelines say that if your child has a fever over 102 degrees and has severe cold symptoms such as a cough, runny nose that lasts for more than 48 to 72 hours, you should see a doctor.
Treatment options include:
- Pain relief such as ibuprofen
- Myringotomy: If an earache lasts for over three months and is caused by trapped fluid in the eardrum, the doctor may perform this procedure. This procedure is done by inserting tubes down the ear and draining the fluid.
For prevention, doctors recommend children getting the flu shot and the pneumococcal vaccine.
What are alternative treatments for earaches?
The main thing to remember is that you must be cautious. The ear is a sensitive place and you must make sure the eardrum has not ruptured. If the eardrum in intact, in most cases it is, gently pouring some warm oil into the ear canal is usually the top choice as a home remedy.
Other treatments that some people find helpful include:
- Heat can be really soothing to the painful ear. Put rice or popcorn in a sock, heat it up in a microwave or oven and put over ear.
- Onion juice warmed up and put in the ear can help soothe inflammation and fight infection.
- Make sure you and your family are eating a healthy, well-rounded diet. If your child gets a lot of earaches, hold off on the dairy, sugar and wheat.
Of course, essential oils traditionally have also been used for earaches. For more information, see the Useful Essential Oils tab. Never put the essential oils directly in the ear. The oil must be diluted.