Parents are using homeopathic treatments and herbal eardrops among other natural alternatives to ease earaches in kids, but are these safe?
We are drawing closer to the cold and flu time of year, a season where kids get sick virtually every week with another cold-related illness. It is common for kids to have ear infections during the colder months, and according to Children’s Health, 75 percent of kids in the United States (US) develop ear infections by the time they turn three years old.
Moreover, research findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) show that ear infections in kids are the most common illnesses that are treated with antibiotics in the US. Too much exposure to antibiotics can alter the genetic material of healthy bacteria that protect against infections, sometimes even permanently.
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As such, parents turn to natural remedies for treating ear infections, in the age of antibiotic resistance. Parents are using homeopathic treatments and herbal eardrops among other natural alternatives to ease their children’s discomfort. Yet, physicians do not endorse alternative ear infection remedies for kids, because scholars have not sufficiently studied such remedies using approved scientific methods, as Pharmacy Times explains.
Do Natural Treatments Work?
Natural ear infection remedies have been analyzed with mixed results.
Garlic Ear Drops
When applied topically, garlic has been found to soothe the discomfort of an earache. According to a study, ear drops containing garlic and other natural ingredients were effective in relieving ear pain in 103 kids taking part in the study. Garlic was just as active in reducing ear pain as over-the-counter (OTC) options.
However, the use of garlic runs a risk of chemical burns or skin irritation from garlic’s volatile oils, causing uneasiness where the product was applied. As a result, this can worsen the ear infection, which only aggravates the issue, according to Healthline.
Also, garlic-based oils should not be used if a child has an injured eardrum. That’s because the oil can intensify the pain and cause fluid to drain from the child’s ear.
The homeopathic medication works well when tailored to a child’s specific symptoms. The medicine may be oral, topical treatments or teas that contain highly-diluted ingredients, usually plants and minerals, that have been formulated to match the illness profile of an ear infection.
Homeopathy is a controversial treatment option because there is little systematic evidence that the medication is effective. Many such alternative treatment options are not well scrutinized, and it remains uncertain whether this remedy is beneficial. Besides, if a child has a perforated eardrum or ear tubes, homeopathy should not be used without consulting the doctor. Ideally, a parent should seek advice from a doctor before using any product that will penetrate his or her child’s middle ear space.
Basil oils and Tea Tree oils are among the popular essential oils for treating pediatric ear infections.
Studies reveal that the super-concentrated forms of basil and tea tree oils have antibacterial and antimicrobial features that are helpful in warding off bacterial and viral infections. Yet, while research findings are promising, on the tests carried out in animals, more studies need to be done to determine the effectiveness and safety of using the oils in humans.
In the meantime, essential oils are not recommended for use in kids who have ruptured eardrums. As well, undiluted essential oils can irritate the skin causing the condition to become worse. Likewise, more than two drops of the oils at a time can clog a child’s ear.
Traditional African and Chinese herbal formulas are known for treating cold and flu-like infections that trigger ear infections. Moreover, research has shown some indications of potency in the use of herbal medicines.
However, the proof concerning the usefulness of herbal alternatives in treating pediatric ear infections is unsatisfying, because of the poor quality of trials involved.
Consequently, to properly gauge the efficacy of natural remedies for ear infections in kids, scientific reviews based on more thoroughly-designed randomized tests are necessary for the future.
In the meantime, parents should consult their pediatricians for guidance before applying any natural remedies, because ear illnesses can spread and trigger severe complications in young kids, including bacterial meningitis. Therefore, parents should learn the treatment options available to know what is involved and seek a doctor’s guidance when resorting to alternative ear infection therapies.
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