A Healthy Balance: Ears to you, Mrs. Robinson
A. Asked me the other day about her son’s ear infections. He’s 2 and will most likely grow out of them, but while he’s having them, he’s in such pain and we all really feel bad for the little guy. So, what are some safe things to do at home, just to get them feeling better and back to sleep when you’re up late and the doctor’s office isn’t open? Fortunately, most ear infections resolve on their own, since they are the result of viral infections and don’t require antibiotic treatment.
First, check for a fever. Make sure your child’s temperature is below 101. If it’s not and you have a number for a nurse hotline, call that and follow their directions. They may suggest Children’s Tylenol or even a trip into urgent care, depending on the other symptoms.
If there’s no fever or if it’s lower than 101 degrees, it’s a pretty safe bet to keep them home. Encourage your child to drink fluids (swallowing may be painful due to pressure changes) in order to promote drainage down the throat.
Get together a medium sized onion and some cheesecloth or a clean towel. Slice the onion in half through the middle and microwave for 1-2 minutes. The onion will get pretty hot in that short time. Wrap it in the cheesecloth or towel and hold about an inch from your child’s ear, cut side facing the ear opening, taking great care not to touch them with it; you don’t want to add a burn on top of the earache.
As the volatile oils from the onion escape with the steam, they will enter the child’s ear. These oils are not only antibacterial, they are also very good pain relievers. Keep the onion next to the child’s head until it cools down. By this time, you should have a cold onion in your hand and a sleeping child on your lap.
If your child will not hold still long enough to do the onion trick (what we call Warm Onion Earmuffs), it’s helpful to have another remedy on hand. You can prepare this ahead of time, if you have a child who gets frequent ear infections.
Take three to four drops of lavender essential oil and mix with one cup of warm olive oil. Store in an airtight container. (If you have lavender in your garden, you can steep the buds in oil for a few days and strain it to get the same effect). Use the oil to massage the child’s neck from just behind the ear down to the collarbone. This milking motion promotes the drainage of pus from the tubes behind the ear (what causes the pressure and thence the pain) and down the throat.
Never put anything in anyone’s ears unless you are sure they have not ruptured. There are a number of topical treatments that your naturopathic doctor can give you once they determine the eardrum is intact.
Dr. Katie Baker is the owner of Stone Turtle Health, a naturopathic family clinic here in Ballard on 8th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 62nd Street (www.stoneturtlehealth.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.