Pediatrician-Approved Natural Remedies for Ear Infections

pretty baby crying and holding her ear in pain

“Mommy, my ear hurts!”

As we head full swing into cold and flu season, this is a common refrain heard by many parents. In fact, earaches are the #1 reason for visits to the pediatrician’s office, and the most common reason that antibiotics are prescribed for kids.

So, your kid has a fever, he’s grabbing his ear and crying in pain, and you’re wondering – does he need antibiotics?

Probably NOT!

The first thing to understand is “What’s an ear infection anyway?”

The typical scenario is that your child starts off with a cold with runny nose and congestion. She may even start to get better, then all of a sudden – bam! She wakes up in the middle of the night with a fever, holding her ear and crying in pain.

To diagnose an ear infection (acute otitis media), there has to be a sudden onset of symptoms with fluid in the middle ear, and inflammation (either a red ear drum or pain that interferes with normal activity or sleep). But just because your child has an acute otitis media doesn’t mean that it’s due to a bacterial infection. Many are caused by viruses and wouldn’t respond to antibiotics anyway. And just because it’s due to a bacterial infection, doesn’t mean it requires antibiotics. Nearly ¾ of all ear infections, even bacterial ones, will resolve spontaneously.

In the “old days,” any kid who showed up with an ear infection would buy themselves a 10-day course of amoxicillin. In this era of antibiotic resistance, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC have issued guidelines for “watchful waiting.” Observation without antibiotics for 48-72 hours is now considered an option for a child with uncomplicated acute otitis media who is:

• 6 months to 2 years with non-severe illness and uncertain diagnosis; or
• 2 years of age and older without severe symptoms or with uncertain diagnosis.

In the meantime, while you’re waiting and watching, your child is in pain and you’re thinking, “Isn’t there anything I can do to help my child with his pain, and treat his infection without antibiotics?

Why yes! YES – there is!

Natural treatments are AWESOME for ear infections. In fact, treating ear infections holistically has been one of the greatest rewards in my practice. I can literally count on my fingers how many times I’ve had to prescribe antibiotics for acute otitis media in the last 11 years since I started Whole Family Wellness. Yup – pretty awesome!


What’s the evidence that natural treatments can work for ear infections?

In one study, an herbal ear drop containing extracts of garlic, calendula, St John’s wort and mullein flower – herbs which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties – was found to be as effective in reducing ear pain compared with an anesthetic ear drop(1). Another study found that the same herbal ear drop along with lavender and Vitamin E were more effective in reducing ear pain than when those same ear drops were given with amoxicillin(2)!

Individualized homeopathic medicines have also been shown to be effective in reducing pain and the need for antibiotics, and at least as effective as conventional treatments(3,4,5). One study found that an individualized homeopathic medicine was effective in controlling pain in 39% of patients after 6 hours, and another 33% of patients after 12 hours – that’s nearly ¾ of kids with complete pain control within 12 hours! There is NO antibiotic that is going to work as fast(6)!

What are these natural treatments, you ask?

Natural remedies work best when individualized to your child’s specific symptoms, and there are too many specific medicines to list. (In between patients, I’m diligently working to bring you my Ecourse “Healthy Kids Happy Kids – All Year Long!” as soon as humanly possible to teach you all the remedies you need to know to successfully treat your kid’s ear infection and other common conditions! It will be worth the wait – you’ll feel like Supermom or Superdad ready to take charge of your child’s health naturally!)

In the meantime, here is my top list of natural remedies that I recommend to treat kids with ear infections safely and effectively.


Garlic ear drops


Unless your child has ear tubes or has a perforated ear drum, garlic ear drops are a must! While you can certainly make garlic ear drops at home, as much as I wish I were, I unfortunately am not a DIY-kinda girl. Garlic can also be very irritating to the skin so you have to be absolutely sure that you’ve filtered out every last bit of garlic from your oil. And with limited time, and so many great ready-made options available, I typically recommend that parents buy garlic ear drops. In our office we carry the Mullein Garlic Ear Oil by Herb Pharm that has the same combination of garlic, calendula, St. John’s Wort and mullein flower used in the studies mentioned above.

Directions for use:
• Warm the bottle by rolling back and forth in your hands or running under warm water (cold drops may make your child feel dizzy)
• Put 3-4 drops in the painful ear(s) 3-4x/day
• You can have your child lay down with that ear up for a minute or so, or put a little piece of cotton in that ear to keep the drops in
• Repeat 3-4x/day and as needed for pain


Homeopathic medicines

Homeopathic medicines work best when individualized to your child’s symptoms, but these are awesome first go-to’s! If you’re new to homeopathy, be sure to check out my previous blog posts What is Homeopathy – Part 1 and What is Homeopathy – Part 2.


oscillococcinumBy now you may have seen Oscilloccinum lining the shelves at Whole Foods and other stores. This is THE homeopathic flu remedy, but also a MUST at the very beginning of an ear infection, which often starts as a flu-like illness. Studies have shown that taking Oscillococcinum at the onset of flu significantly reduces symptoms and shortens the duration of illness(7,8).

The recommended dosage is 1 vial 3 times over a 24-hour period, preferably at the very onset of your child’s ear infection. The dosage is the same regardless of age and weight. Take the entire vial of tasty sprinkles and suck on them until they dissolve, ideally at least 10 minutes away from food or drink.


Ferrum phosphoricum


Ferrum phosphoricum is THE homeopathic “anti-inflammatory” medicine. Ferrum phosphoricum also targets the eustachian tube, or the ear canal, and helps the fluid trapped in the ear canal to drain effectively and reduces the inflammation that is causing ear pain.

Use Ferrum phosphoricum in a 9C or 30C dilution (the 30C dilution is typically easier to find at health food stores and Whole Foods). Give 3 pellets every 3-4 hours, ideally at least 10 minutes away from food or drink.





Belladonna is a great addition to Ferrum phosphoricum when your child has a high fever, is clammy and agitated with a bright red face, screaming in pain, and has a bright red throbbing eardrum. If indicated, you can give it together with the Ferrum phosphoricum, in the 9C or 30C dilution, 3 pellets every 3-4 hours away from food or drink.


Herbal Medicines

Since kids usually develop ear infections after they’ve had a cold or flu-like illness, adding on herbal medicines that I also recommend for colds and flus can be a great addition to what you’re doing above. There are a variety of very effective herbal medicines that work amazingly well to help your family recovery faster from colds and flus. These are a few of what I have found to be incredibly helpful.



Windbreaker is a Chinese herbal formula by Kan Herbs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fever and flu are caused by an attack of “wind,” so this formula knocks the wind right out of your system! It works GREAT for colds, flus and fever! This is my “go-to” for me and my kids. No, I won’t lie – it’s a bit bitter, but it’s definitely worth a try. My kids have been taking this since they were infants, and love the taste. But if your kids are a bit pickier, you can mix with honey or a bit of tart juice like pomegranate or lemonade to mask the flavor. The typical dosage for toddlers is 1-2 droppersful 3x/day; for older kids 3 droppersful 3x/day, and for teens and adults 4 droppersful 3x/day.


Pelargonium sidoides



Pelar-what? Also known as Umckaloabo, this traditional African herb can significantly shorten the duration and severity of colds and other upper respiratory infections. It has been found to improve macrophage activity, kill bacteria and viruses, and improve the ability to clear mucous from the lungs. We carry an alcohol-free syrup of Pelargonium sidoides called V Clear. It can also be found over-the-counter as Umcka Syrup by Nature’s Way. The recommended dosage is ½ tsp 3x/day for children ages 2-6 years, 1 tsp 3x/day for children ages 6-12 years, and 1.5 tsp 3x/day for children over 12 years and adults.




LI 4


One of the easiest and most effective acupuressure points to use for fever, earaches, and immune strengthening is Large Intestine 4 (LI 4). LI 4 is located on the top of the hand, in the webspace between your thumb and index finger. Put your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your child’s hand. Squeeze your thumb and index together, make small circular motions with your thumb with firm but gentle pressure. Aim for several minutes or 100 circles.



Essential Oils

Lavender Herb And Essential Oil

Essential oils don’t just smell great, they have amazing therapeutic power! One of my favorites – a true panacea – is lavender. Lavender essential oil helps to relieve inflammation and pain and reduce the stress and anxiety associated with earaches – for you and your child! You can diffuse the oil into the air by her bedside, put a few drops into her bath, massage onto her feet, or better yet, massage right into LI4 when you do acupressure as she drifts off to a restful sleep.



What if your child ends up needing antibiotics?

While these natural remedies work GREAT for most kids, there may be times that despite your best efforts, your child ends up needing antibiotics. Definitely see your child’s doctor if he has a fever for more than 4-5 days, looks very sick to you, is continuing to feel worse or isn’t any better after 2-3 days on the above treatments.

And if you’re child does need antibiotics – don’t despair! As long as you support her with probiotics to maintain a healthy gut microbiome, she’ll be fine! As a general rule, try to give probiotics at least 1-2 hours away from each antibiotics dose so that the antibiotics don’t kill the probiotics. Don’t know which probiotic to give? Click here to download my free Guide to Choosing Your Child’s Probiotic!


So there you have it! My top natural remedies to treat ear infections! Please share this with any parent you know who wants to learn even more ways to help their children thrive and live healthy, happy lives!

Wishing you a healthy, happy rest of the winter! Stay tuned and be sure you’re signed up for more awesome info to come.

xo Holistic mama doc – Elisa Song, MD



  1. Efficacy of Naturopathic Extracts in the Management of Ear Pain Associated With Acute Otitis Media E. Michael Sarrell, MD; Avigdor Mandelberg, MD; Herman Avner Cohen, MD. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155(7):796-799. doi:10.1001/archpedi.155.7.796.
  2. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Pediatrics. 2003 May;111(5 Pt 1):e574-9.
  3. Homeopathic treatment of acute otitis media in children: a preliminary randomized placebo-controlled trial. Jacobs J et al. Pediatr Infect Dis J, 2001 Feb;20(2):177-83.
  4. Randomized controlled pilot study to compare homeopathy and conventional therapy in acute otitis media. Sinha MN et al. Homeopathy 2012, Jan;101(1):5-12.
  5. Homeopathic and conventional treatment for acute respiratory and ear complaints: a comparative study on outcome in the primary care setting. Haidvogl M et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2007 Mar 2;7:7.
  6. Homeopathy in acute otitis media in children: treatment effect or spontaneous resolution? Frei H. and Thurneysen A. British Homeopath J, 2001 Oct;90(4):180-2.
  7. Ferley JP, Zmirou D, D’Adhemar D, Balducci F. A controlled evaluation of a homoeopathic preparation in the treatment of influenzalike syndromes. Br J Clin Pharmac, 1989; 27 (3): 329-35.
  8. Papp R, Schuback G, Beck E, Burkard G, Bengel J, Lehrl S, Belon P. Oscillococcinum® in patients with influenza-like syndromes: a placebo-controlled double-blind evaluation. Br Homeopath J, 1998; 87: 69-76.


  1. Thank you for another great artical. You really help us parents to feel empowered to handle our children’s health naturally.

  2. Dr. Song,

    Near-perfect timing, as this is quite apropos given my current situation. A question, however: as I’d like to use Lavender, my child has seizures, and as far as I know, Lavender is contraindicated for those with seizures. Does this mean that I shouldn’t use Lavender in the non-diffuser methods you’ve suggested? I was thinking specifically of the possibility of massaging “right into LI4” or the feet (bottoms, I presume?).


    Thank you.

    • Hi Alex – from my research, it’s specifically Spike Lavendar that is contraindicated with seizures, as are fennel and sage. If you’re not sure what kind of lavender oil you have, i would recommend avoiding it and using another calming oil like chamomile. Good luck!

  3. Thanks for sharing all of this incredibly valuable info. We just had our first ear ache after 5 years of parenting and I realized I had very few tools in the tool kit for this.

    • Hi Ashley! You’re so welcome! I’ll keep the info coming! Hope you’re doing great! 🙂

  4. My son has Down syndrome and normally I can do all the holistic approaches to prevent ear infections. He is 14. Years old… no tubes.
    Three weeks ago he got one and was placed on antibiotics amoxicillin.
    Yesterday I noticed his lips were bright red, blistered, and swollen…with red dots on his nose.
    I am frustrated because he now has developed inpetigo and another course of antibiotics prescribed
    …. uuggghhh,
    I blast him with probiotics and he eats really healthy…minimize diary.
    I am so frustrated.

    • I’m so sorry to Leticia! I’m working on a series of article on gut health so hopefully that will help your son!

  5. Hi Elisa, thank you for this helpful resources. Do you have something you like to use for when mucus gets stuck in the nose but it does not drip? Is not post Nadal drip because there isn’t a cough involved but rather mucus in the nose, maybe sinusitis or allergies, that is not infection yet. My 2 year old often has mucus stuck in the nose ( I usually know it because I hear it when he talks or snort). I give Claritin everyday just to avoid inflammation but he still needs to clear that mucus out.
    Any tips will be greatly appreciated!!!

    • Hi Penelope – in these situations, homeopathic Sticta pulmonaria may be helpful, and definitely a nasal rinse for kids like the Neilmed or Nasopure. See my blogposts on homeopathic medicines for more info on how to use homeopathy if you’re not familiar! 🙂

  6. Can you tell me more about Belladonna? I’ve always heard to avoid it (it’s an ingredient in those natural teething tablets, and my pediatrician made particular mention to avoid them because of the belladonna).

    • Hi Samantha – great question. Belladonna can be toxic when used in herbal strengths. When diluted homeopathically, it should be totally safe. BUT, it’s very important to choose a manufacturer like Boiron that can guarantee that the dilution listed on the bottle is actually the dilution that you’ll get. Good luck!

  7. Are the homeopathic medicines that you suggested above also okay for a 9 month infant? If so what would the dosage be?

    • Hi Bee – homeopathic medicines can be given at any age. And the cool thing about them is that the dosage is the same regardless of age!

  8. Hi Dr Song,
    What are the dosage for infants ( < 2yrs) old for the homeopaths and herbal medicines that you recommended above?

  9. My 9 month daughter gets constant colds from daycare. What follows the cold is an ear infection. Do you have recommendations on how to boost her immune system to prevent a cold? (She’s on formula now) But if she catches a cold – do you have recommendations on how to prevent the ear infection?

    • Hi Bess! So frustrating! Definitely check out my blogposts on flu because I mention a lot of immune-supporting steps you can take to hopefully prevent colds in the first place. And for the kiddos I see who quickly get ear infections, I typically recommend starting garlic ear drops and homeopathic Ferrum phosphoricum at the start of any cold to try to prevent ear infections. Best of luck! xo Elisa

  10. Any comments on Colloidal Silver in the ear? We have done a mixture of that as well as garlic oil drops & occillosinum & chiropractor visits. I’m here looking for more options as my son just started complaining about his ear! So far that’s what we’ve been doing all day.

    • I don’t have any experience with colloidal silver in the ear for ear infections so unfortunately I can’t speak to how effective it is. But unless the eardrum has ruptured, I can’t think of a reason that it would be harmful! Best of luck!

  11. Hi Dr Song – My family is newer to homeopathic, integrative, etc medicine. My 10 year old son was diagnosed ADHD at an early age (5 yrs) and and psoriasis (4yrs). We’re already on a good start to recommendations for the ADHD (mainly trigger food, additives avoidance). We’ve had food sensitivity testing, Vitamin D level testing (a bit low so supplementing). We did these through our newly found Naturopathic doctor but she seems fairly young in her career which I think has both pros and cons:)
    For ADHD she recommended lavender and certain food avoidance; gluten and dairy which both were the only items that showed up as sensitivities (although mild).
    Nothing was prescribed for the psoriasis but after reading I feel it’s a gut thing we need to address. He tends to have small scaly spots on his torso and back 100% of the time. Better in summer when he’s outside mots of the time. We live in Alaska so winters are tough on his skin:)
    Question 1: Do you have any guidance for psoriasis?
    Question 2: I was listening to the Wellness Mama podcast you were on the other day that discussed natural remedies for chronic ear infections and was hoping you had guidance on chronic strepp throat infections. My son also seems to get these 2-3 times a year which is then followed by a psoriasis outbreak.

    Thanks for your time and thoughts!

    • Hi Kelly! you’re SO on the right track! Keep looking at his gut and that will help with his neurodevelopmental (ADHD) and autoimmune (psoriasis) issues! Gluten, dairy, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives all to avoid, and maybe corn and soy which are also big inflammatory culprits. By supporting his gut and immune system, you’ll help his ADHD, psoriasis and chronic strep! Strep-free probiotics are super important, and curcumin can be very helpful as anti-inflammatory, neurologic and immune support! Best of luck!

  12. What about for a swimmer’s ear infection? Would you treat the same way? My daughter is running a fever and in a LOT of pain. She is prone to these after swimming…

    • the best homeopathic medicine for swimmer’s ear is Hepar sulphuris 30C 3 pellets 3-4x/day. Garlic ear drops can help immediately with the pain. Best of luck!

  13. Hi Dr Song. What about for a 4 month infant? We went for his well check visit yesterday, and the pediatrician said he had bronchiolitis and an ear infection. No fever. Wasn’t sleeping well for about 3 nights. When I got the diagnosis my Ped said go straight to antibiotics simply because he is under 6 months old and there is risk of an infection to the bloodstream since he hasn’t had all of his vaccinations left. I just couldn’t bring myself to give him antibiotics, so I went straight to my chiropractor and started him on probiotics and garlic mullein ear oil. My lactation consultant said to put boiling water in a cup, empty it, and put a couple drops of essential oils in and cup it to his ear. I was really nervous about this since he’s under 6 months but figured since not topical and not direct inhalation I would try it. He seems much better today, but given we had no ear infection symptoms to the naked eye and the ped still recommended antibiotics, I’m nervous about knowing whether the remedies are really working or I’m putting him in danger because he’s only 4 months old? What is the literature evidence for an infant with no fever and eardrum still in tact needing antibiotics?

    • Hi Sarah – unfortunately, there’s not really much literature on taking a wait and watch approach with a 4 month old. I would have close followup with your pediatrician. It’s very possible that his ear is better with all of this and that he won’t need antibiotics, but since he’s so little, the only way to know will be to keep taking a look at his ear. And if he ends up needing antibiotics, that’s totally fine – there’s a time and a place for everything! Just support his gut with probiotics, and if you’re nursing, that will be so protective as well!

  14. Hello! How do I administer pallets to an infant? Thanks

    • Hi Cristina – for an infant who is not yet able to suck on pellets, you can dissolve them in a little water and give with an eye dropper or syringe. When my kids were babies, I would put the pellets in 1/2 ounce of water and tap gently with the back of a spoon and then administer!

  15. Hi! Could the garlic oil you have listed above be used for a child under 1?

    • Hi Mackie – yes, but for a child under 1, I would want to have close followup with a pediatrician to ensure that things were moving in the right direction!

  16. Could you explain why garlic oil shouldnt be used on a childs ear who already had eartubes put in?

    • Hi Aaron – I’ve had parents who’ve put garlic oil into their kids’ ears with ear tubes without a problem, but I typically don’t recommend it because I don’t want too much of garlic and oil to have direct access into the middle ear canal since garlic can be irritating and I’m not sure how a direct load of garlic would affect the earbones and ear canals… Good question! 🙂 Elisa

  17. Can I give my 1 year old windbreaker if so how much? Also can I give her V clear alcohol free and if so how much? So glad I found your website.

    • Hi Julia – I’m unable to give specific medical advice for your child, but I can tell you that when my child was 1, I gave her windbreaker 1 dropperful 3x/day, and Vclear 1/2 tsp 3x/day. Also, if you haven’t already, please do join the Thriving Child Community private Facebook group and post your question there, or find the answer already in the discussion. It’s an amazing resource of collective knowledge from holistic parents and practitioners dedicated to helping children thrive naturally – body, mind & spirit, and I try to get on regularly to answer general questions:
      🙂 Elisa

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