8 Earache Remedies—and Which Ones Are Worth Trying
It’s often a health mystery…why does your ear hurt? What’s causing it? And, most importantly, how do you stop the pain. Here an expert weighs in on some natural and home remedies that may offer some relief for earaches.
Heat or warm compress
“The most tried and true natural remedy is heat or warm compresses,” shares Brandon Hopkins, MD, at the Head and Neck Institute at The Cleveland Clinic. Make sure the compress is warm, but not too hot. The heat will help blood circulation and work to decrease the pain. “Other indications it is time to see a doctor are if you have a high spiking fever over 102 that doesn’t come down with Tylenol or ibuprofen or if you are generally ill–not eating or drinking,” warns Dr. Hopkins. “Also if the ear pain is not relieved by Tylenol or ibuprofen or using heat, then you should seek medical care.” (Find out what your ear wax reveals about your health.)
Vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Lately, apple cider vinegar has been having a health renaissance. People use it on their hair, skin, and drink it to help with the immune system. But Dr. Hopkins isn’t sure this is such a tried and true method when it comes to earache remedies. He adds that vinegar and apple cider vinegar may be helpful in loosening ear wax before removal, so if your earache is from a clogged up ear, then try adding a few drops of vinegar to your ear, then letting it drip out onto a washcloth. (No, you really can’t put a Q-Tip in there.)
Some earache remedies don’t hold universal cure for all earaches because there are many different types of ear pain. “I don’t commonly recommend using mineral oils to treat ear pain, although I do recommend mineral oil upon occasion if the pain is caused by dry, cracked skin in the ear canal,” shares Dr. Hopkins. So it’s important to figure out why your ear is bothering you. Some tips to this: Outer ear infections come with a lot of pain, such as when you tug at your ear. “Middle ear infections typically do not come with pain when the ear is wiggled,” says Dr. Hopkins. A more serious ear infection will also be accompanied by a fever, cold, sinus problems, or a cough. Try these home remedies for a cold.
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Many people pop echinacea at the first sign of a cold since it’s known for boosting the immune system. While Hopkins says there is no clinical evidence that this works to alleviate ear pain, it shouldn’t hurt.
Xylitol is a sweet substance that can be found in chewing gum and lozenges. A recent study in 2016 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information looked into whether this type of gum is helpful with earaches in children up to the age of 12. According to the study, chewing this type of gum does help with acute middle ear infections, as long as there is no respiratory infection present. Here are other ways to soothe your kids’ ears next time you fly away for a family vacation.
Dr. Hopkins says there is no actual proof or evidence that garlic makes the list for earache remedies. But garlic contains a compound called allicin, which is full of antioxidants and has some amazing health benefits. Allicin and garlic drops are available at many health and nutrition stores to make it easier, and less smelly, to use in earaches.
Once again, this remedy works only on certain types of earaches. “For swimmers, as a preventative measure, I recommend keeping your ear canal dry to prevent infections such as swimmer’s ear; you can even use a hair dryer from six to eight inches away to dry the ear after swimming,” shares Dr. Hopkins. “However, it is always a good idea to talk first with your pediatrician to come up with the best plan of what to do when your child has an earache.” (Don’t miss the surprising reason why sleeping on a plane could ruin your ears.)
This is another one that works more to loosen ear wax before using another treatment. According to Prevention, it’s important to be careful when using these types of treatments, because getting hydrogen peroxide or mineral oils on the wrong side of the ear drum can cause dizziness or lead to infection. Ouch.
Next, here are the home remedies for ear infections everyone should know.