Surviving an Ear Infection: Treating and Preventing

Ear infections and interfere with sleep and with language development. Get tips for treating ear infection pain, getting rid of ear infections, and preventing them in the future.

Child crying holding sore ear from ear infection

One of the main causes for a pre-toddler or toddler suddenly not sleeping well is an ear infection. Ear infections can be painful. They can also prevent your child from being able to hear well, which can delay speech development if ear infections are chronic.

There are plenty of reasons to want to get rid of an ear infection on top of the basic desire for parents to remove pain from their children. Here are some ideas on how to help your child during an ear infection. Read about some common signs here: Addressing Concerns About Baby’s Ears

Let’s talk about tips for surviving and ear infection and helping your kiddo out.

Getting Rid of Infection

Here are helps for getting rid of the infection all together. These are tips from moms.

  • Antibiotics (see your doctor)
  • Garlic oil
  • Herb Pharm Mullein/Garlic Compound Supplement
  • Essential Oils (Young Living Essential Oil Melrose or doTerra Melaleuca Essential Oil)I massage all behind the ear and down the eustachian tube to the throat with the essential oil (basil) and coconut oil several times a day. -Salina
  • I’ve used vinegar! I did it to myself first and, when my ear ached, the vinegar burned but after a few applications (a few hours in between) it went away completely without antibiotics or any other measure. I’ve also tried it with my son and it worked for him. Now… I’m not suggesting we necessarily do this in lieu of treatment, but it worked for me -Rachel
  • I swear by garlic oil! Cut up several cloves of garlic and soak it in olive oil for a day. Then strain out the garlic and put the oil into a glass dropper. Put 3 drops in ear and make them lie so the oil doesn’t come out. (Watch a movie). Within hours they will feel better. I run the dropper under hot water so it’s warm going into the ear. It will store for at least a year. Since I started doing this 4 years ago I have never been to a doctor for ear infections. -Ruby
  •  I am prone to them myself and this seriously helps! My nephew also uses this technique (he is 10). The salt draws out the infection and pressure. I still see the Dr. but this bring almost immediately relief.  -Shelly
  • Home Remedy for Earwax and Infections…/ Elisha
  • Hydrogen Peroxide -Travis

Helping the Pain

Here are popular ways to help your kiddo with the pain from the ear infection.

  • Prop mattress
  • Rock and hold child
  • Hyland’s Baby Infant Earache Drops
  • I suffered with them chronically as a child. Thankfully, my children have never had an issue.
    A sock filled with dry rice, microwaved for a short time (be very careful because they get hot quickly and stay hot) and then placed over the ear was very soothing. But, my mother was doing this when I was much older, not a baby. -Kari
  • Warm up Olive Oil in the microwave in a small container (20 – 30 secs). Suck it into a syringe and squirt it (gently) in their ear(s). Put a small portion of a cotton ball in their ear to absorb the oil. We learned this trick from our Dr. -Sheri
  • Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Advil 
  • Heating Pad -Beth
  • If you get a hot or warm wash cloth and lay on it it seems to relieve some of the pain for me -Anastasia
  • Daegen got his 2nd set of tubes this past January . Which isn’t normal since he is 5. Mothers intuition was right and his hearing was being compromised and he was getting a draining ear infection once a month. His ear drums actually burst. Propping hishead and having him laying on a heating pad was something that gave him quick relief . My pediatrician had told me that Advil works the best for ear pain so I would give him some when he complained about the pain. -Amy

Preventing Ear Infections

Once you have experienced an ear infection, you will want to do what you can to prevent another one.

  • Eliminate Dairy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Look into what the cause is. This can be tricky, but addressing the cause is always the ideal situation to any problem. For McKenna, a big cause was that her tonsils were huge. She always had them infected and food would get caught in them. Her ENT said this likely contributed to her frequently getting infections. She had her tonsils removed.
  • Ear tubes. McKenna has tubes in and has had them in for two years now. Tubes don’t eliminate infections, but they ease pain and they also make the infection drain out instead of staying on the ear drum. They are also supposed to help prevent infections from forming since the ear can drain, but it is not uncommon to get infections while tubes are in (and let me say, it is pretty nasty. It does drain right on out).Now, I wouldn’t jump to tubes. They aren’t risk free. I think surgery should be reserved for high need times. There is also risk of holes remaining even after tubes are removed, which leads to risks with more surgery and possible hearing damage long-term. So I wouldn’t rush into tubes–I would try other things first. We went with tubes and tonsils at the same time because I would rather that than do surgery twice. Read more about that here: McKenna Summary: 2.75 Years
  • Both my boys struggled with this and I know there is differing ideas about antibiotic etc. Wells didn’t even suffer with a lot of pain but he had fluid on his ear and it wouldn’t drain. I found going to an ENT and getting tubes rather than waiting and seeing if they grow out of it was better for me. Wells started talking more and just changed after he had tubes, adenoids, and tonsils out. I did seek a second opinion and I felt good about the decision. I think ENT’s have a different take than pediatricians on this subject sometimes. I also think if tubes are in you can treat with ear drops and not put them on antibiotic. I think ibuprofen helps, we spent many nights in a recliner because it seemed to help them to sleep up-right. I do think the warm compress is good also. Pace still has one tube in and I sometimes think mucinex helps if he gets a cold. However he is older and can take that. -Monica
  • Cody has tubes and after a year and a half just got his first ear infection with tubes. Pus oozing everywhere out his ear – so gross! They put him on amox. but all it did was get rid of the strep that caused the ear infection. Now he’s on a omnicef (sp?) and that’s been our best oral antibiotic for getting rid of his ear infections cuz they’re usually so nasty. But tubes were the best decision we ever made for a kid who kept getting EI’s and numbing drops are AMAZING -Lacey

Extra Tips

Dr Mom Otoscope–this can help you take the guess work out of whether it is an infection or not. I have loved having one.

Use yogurt during antibiotics.

Lots of water so child stays hydrated.

Once they get antibiotics, be SURE to also give them yogurt or a probiotic! For my 3 year-old, the diarrhea was WAY worse than the ear infection. Also, for what it’s worth, the doctor told me that in some European countries, standard of care is not to give antibiotics until three days after diagnosis. Most ear infections will resolve with no medication and no harm to the ear. -Tiffany

My daughter has had 3 ear infections. She will be 2 next weekend. The best thing has been antibiotics, but sometimes the drainage/lingering cough is worse than the ear infection! We do Vicks baby at night on her chest, cool mist humidifier and steam up the bathroom if we need to help her during a bad cough at night. She also does breathing treatments when the cough is especially bad. Other things that have helped are warmed up lemon and water, limiting milk intake and saline spray/nose Frieda. -Jessica

We do melaleuca essential oil from Doterra behind the ears, hot, damp packs held over the ear, trip to chiropractor. Try to always avoid antibiotics! So often overused and over prescribed. – Hunter

This doesn’t deal with the pain or prevention or anything but I thought this tip was brilliant: using a permanent marker, draw a grid on the medicine bottle with a box for each of the doses to be given. As you give one, check off a box. That way you don’t lose track of how many doses you have given each day. It worked well for me! After the meds, then it’s snuggle time. The only time our kids ever slow down is when they are sick. -Alicia

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