Ear Infection Remedy

ear infection remedies (1 of 3)

Ear infection remedies have been top priority here since our first run in with an ear infection with my two year old. She and I were up until the wee hours of the morning, and she was in so much pain that I ended up taking her to the ER for her first antibiotic.

When I discovered natural remedies, ear infections were at the top of my list to research. And through the years, we’ve not had to make a return trip to the ER! I’ll share all of my secrets with you for treating ear pain at home.

There seem to be two different forms of ear infections:

  • One is the result of fluid behind the ear drum, which is often associated with a runny nose and cold symptoms. The pain is from the pressure on the ear drum. Most commonly, this form of ear infection is viral.
  • The other is an inflammation of the ear canal, often called “swimmers ear”.  This also strikes suddenly, but often after swimming or bathing, and without the usual cold symptoms.

Swimmer’s Ear Remedies

I have had good results using half  vinegar & half alcohol at the first sign of swimmers ear.  I actually packed a washed out eye drops bottle of it in our swim bag, and have used it right at the pool several times this summer.

Ear Infection Remedies

First, I check the ear, and made sure that the eardrum is intact…the ear canal looked red and swollen. I mentally assess: have they been swimming? Are they teething or starting to get a little cold? Are they simply uncomfortable or in major pain?

Time for a home remedy to get this under control quickly. I head into the kitchen and grab…an onion!

A traditional ear infection remedy is to put a half of a warm on onion over your child’s ear, or to put a few drops of onion juice into the ear.

This makes a lot of sense when you consider the  properties of onions.  They contain the same strong  antibiotic/ antiviral, and anti-fungal ingredient found in garlic, called allicin.  But onions also contain a larger dose of a natural anti-inflammatory than garlic, which explains why they are preferred over garlic for ear and chest/congestion complaints.

Onions are a good traditional ear infection remedy for both kinds of ear infection, in our experience. You can use a warmed half of an onion, or use the juice. I’ll show how to use both, and the pros and cons of both below.

Onion Juice Ear Infection Remedy:

The benefit of using onion juice is that it’s very quick. I tend to opt for this if my child wakes up with ear discomfort, as they’re able too just go right back to sleep after the juice is in their ears.

One downside is that it’s a little tricky to extract the juice from an onion. I’ve heard of numerous ways to extract onion juice, from grating and squeezing, to using a garlic press.  Onions usually aren’t really all that ‘juicy’, and you don’t want pulp going down into the ear.

Here is my SUPER EASY solution…the easy ear infection remedy that I just used tonight, when my daughter was complaining of ear pain.

I cut the root end off of an onion.  Then I held the onion on its side.  Using the tip of a spoon, I scraped up the newly cut end until I had several drops of onion juice in the spoon.

…like this.

I had her lay on her side with the hurting ear facing up, and I dripped the juice right into her ear.  She kept her head tipped so the juice would stay in, and covered it with a cotton ball.  In just a few minutes, her pain was gone, and she was able to turn over and go right to sleep. Onion juice can be repeated as often as needed when and if the pain returns.

***Update***  If you’re going to treat one ear, go ahead and treat both.  That would have saved us both some sleep.  I did repeat the remedy the next morning as well, but we have not had to repeat again.

Another Ear Infection Remedy Method

There is one benefit to using the onion half over the juice:  Sometimes, the feeling of “water” in the ear is a bit traumatic.  If your child is picky about water in their ears, or if there is *any* chance that the ear drum could be perforated, you can do this method instead.ear infection remedies (1 of 3)

Simply warming half of an onion on a skillet until it’s very warm (but not hot enough to burn!) and holding the cut side over the ear. Onions heat VERY quickly, so be careful not to over-warm it to the point where it burns.  The vapors of the onion are plenty potent enough to do the job. I hold it on for a couple of minutes. Don’t be surprised if the ear or skin turns red…onions are a rubefacient, meaning they pull the blood flow up to the surface of the skin.
We treat both ears, and also the neck just below the ear, as the eustachian tube that drains the inner ear into the throat can also swell closed. To learn about the science behind why onion is such a time honored home remedy for ears (and which color is the most potent), check out my post here about onion nutrition.

More Ear Infection Remedies

I keep a few other products on hand for handling ear infections. There are several natural and homeopathic products for treating ear pain. The following links are Amazon affiliate links. I’ve used these Hylands Earache Drops and have heard great things about this Garlic & Mullien ear oil too!
I’ve also had great success with combining these other remedies with an amber necklace to help ease the pain and inflammation. I discovered the benefit of using raw amber when my baby was teething. You can layer multiple necklaces for even more effect. (We used two for molars and eye teeth.) We use these same necklaces now to treat sore throats and ear pain.
But of all of the products I’ve bought for ear pain, THIS one is my favorite by far:

A Fantastic Tool for Your Home Remedy KitI love this tool for checking ears, noses, and throats at home. It's paid for itself many times over!

Treating ear pain at home can be nerve wracking, because it’s hard to see what is going on in there.  Last year, I finally broke down and bought an otoscope, which is the little light thingy that Doctors use to look in ears.  It does take a little getting used to it to really understand what you’re looking for and at, but overall, it has been a very worthwhile investment in my first aid kit. (Here is a handy You Tube video explaining how to use it)

I have used it for ear checks, as well as to inspect sore throats, teeth, and other dark and dangerous places where a kid might hide a bean or pea.  This is the one I purchased:

Another nice benefit to owning my own is that my kids are now used to it, and they are not scared at all when they go to the Dr., and he looks in their ears. Which makes check ups much less traumatic.

To Pin!Simple ear infection remedies that you can do at home. This REALLY worked for us!

Please note: Never put anything into the ear if you suspect that the ear drum has burst, and/or if you see blood or fluid coming out of the ear.  If a person is allergic to onions or garlic, or experiences pain or irritation with the remedy, then discontinue use. Not all infections respond to these remedies, and some may a doctor visit and internal antibiotics.

Please use your own best judgment when using home remedies, and consult your doctor as you deem necessary.  I am just a house-frau, not a doctor. :)

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  1. KBH says

    just wondering, my 4 1/2 year old had her eardrum rupture, and she’s been through the antiboitics (I think the first time she’s had any), but the ENT thinks she’s headed for a tonsilectomy, adenoidectomy, and tubes in both ears (fluid behind eardrum of non-ruptured ear) I loathe the idea, and am curious what you’d do in this case.

    • Its_Gwen says

      Oh, yuck…I’m so sorry.

      When I was really little, I got recurrent tonsil infections, and was scheduled for surgery. My Mom heard about using the herb alfalfa for it, and started me on it. My infection cleared up and never returned.

      I’d give that a shot, and also elderberry. Most ear infections are viral, and an immune boosting/anti-viral protocol would be really worth pursuing prior to surgery, IMO.

      Also, elevate the head of her bed, to help drainage move down into the stomach, and away from the ears.

      • Its_Gwen says

        The tonsils and adenoids are an important part of the lymphatic and immune system…I’d much rather work on recovery than remove them surgically. I pray that you find a naturally minded practitioner who can help point you in a good direction for her.

        I’ve heard xylitol products can be VERY beneficial for kids who suffer from frequent inner ear infection as well. You may look for more info on that. We use toothpaste and gum/mints that are sweetened 100% with Xylitol.

        • Its_Gwen says

          You can also apply garlic presses around the outside of the ear or on the neck/throat when you suspect infection. The garlic and onion remedy posts would be worth reading.

          • KBH says

            Thanks for the replies! I ordered and received my otoscope yesterday, and see that the non-ruptured ear still looks red inside. However, her ENT had to cancel her follow-up appointment today, and I am rejoicing over more time to try these natural immune boosting methods!

          • Its_Gwen says

            Wonderful! The onion can be cut and just held over the ear…the vapors alone are anti-inflammatory and work really well. It works quickly!

    • says

      A couple of years ago an ENT was suggesting my son get his tonsils out because they were very large. The time came where we had to make a decision and we just felt uneasy about it. My hubby happened to run across a study that indicated dairy products can really affect the tonsils. We reduced his dairy intake and when we took him back to the ENT he said that the tonsils had reduced in size and he no longer saw the need to take them out at this time. Might be something worth looking into if your child consumes lots of dairy.

      • says

        Yes! The tonsils are responsive tissues that are tied into the immune system…I’m not a fan of removing them either. :) Better to find out WHY they are enlarged!

  2. Ariana says

    I’m definitely going to do this for our baby when need be. I have one question though. How do you prevent the onion from burning the babies eyes?

    • Its_Gwen says

      Hi Ariana,
      I’ve never had a problem with that, but I usually use a dropper for the juice for a tiny baby…so baby is usually not with me in the kitchen, and I just carry it in to where they are.

      Once it’s in the ear, it’s fragrant (you’ll suddenly crave Italian food when snuggling your baby) :) But it’s not powerful enough to burn the eyes.

      You can test the juice on the skin first if you’re concerned. I know some people have allergies to garlic, and onion is in the same family. So err on the side of caution for the first try.

  3. says

    Hi Gwen!
    Thanks for this post.
    The photos of how you cut the onion are a great addition to the explanations.
    When researching about home remedies I also read that cooking the onion first would make the juice less stingy – did you experiment with that as well?

    cheers, Lisa

    • Its_Gwen says

      Onions & garlic both produce allicin (the potent antibacterial/antifungal) in an enzyme process that starts when you cut or crush the whole clove or onion. The process eventually degrades the allicin, and it’s most potent within the first hour of being cut. Time, heat, and acid all speed up the degrading process (so eating raw garlic isn’t as effective). So if you’re after the antibacterial aspect of either of them, use freshly cut each time. But I do pass it from one kid to the next when we’re fighting something. :)

      With onions, there is also a powerful anti-inflammatory component that does NOT degrade, even in cooking. So you MAY continue to use it if you’re mainly wanting that portion of the remedy.

  4. Ann Varghese says

    Hi there. My 2.5 year old daughter who has been super healthy since birth got a cold this past Oct and has been severely congestions since, has had three ear infections and the doctor is recommending tubes, tonsils and adenoids out. I have tried saline, nasonex, allergy meds, vitamin c, d, kyolic garlic (liquid), steam inhalation. She still has fluid in her ears… I am wondering would this onion remedy help or is it just for actual infections?

    • Its_Gwen says

      It’s my understanding that the onion addresses inflammation and microbial growth. In this case, it sounds like she’s got a chronic issue. Have you looked at the use of Xylitol for recurrent infection? That would be worth looking into for her.

      Lymph massage may also be a good direction to look at, as well as propping her pillow at night so all fluid drains down and doesn’t pool in her inner ears..

      Personally, I would get a second opinion on removing the tonsils/adenoids, as they are important components of the immune system.
      When I was a child, I also had repeated tonsil infections and was scheduled to have surgery to remove them. My Mom tried giving me alfalfa on the recommendation of a friend, and my infections cleared up completely and I never had the surgery. So it’s possible to recover. :)

    • Josephthegreat says

      Avoid all dairy and sugar products to expedite healing. Even all animal products will trigger infection. Give ur child plant based diet 1 month – 3mos.

  5. says

    I was going to try something like this myself. I can’t tell my husband though, he will think it’s hooey, but I remember my mom doing it and it worked. I certainly will NEVER tell my mother or sister in laws!

    • Gwen says

      :) The proof is in the pudding, I always say. I’ve had so many Mamas who have been shocked that this worked well for them!

    • says

      I use red if I have it, as it’s got the highest concentration of the anti-inflammatory quercetin. But *all* onions have this compound, so use what you have.

  6. Loz says

    Very helpful article Gwen :) I’ve heard rubbing pressed red onion juice on gums can help with teething. Do you know anything about this? I have a 13 month old who seems to be permanent ly teething. She wakes frequently at night & I think it’s teething. So I thought I’d try this right before bed & during the night. She also has a Amber necklace on so I will buy another to see if it helps. I haven’t taken it off when she gets wet , do you know if this effects the necklace working. If you have any other suggestions it would be much appreciated (I have tried homeopath products & seen a homeopath as well). Thanks for your patience with this long post! Cheers, Lauren

    • says

      Hi Lauren!
      I don’t usually reach for remedies that are unpleasant for my kids, because I don’t want them to associate home remedies with pain or gross tasting concoctions. So I’d probably not try the onion just for that reason.

      We did end up using 2 necklaces for the heavy duty teething like eye teeth & molars, and it did the trick for us. My son went from not being able to sleep, to sleeping soundly within an hour of putting on the 2nd necklace. :) Getting them wet won’t hurt them, but chlorine isn’t supposed to be good for them.

  7. SandyB says

    Hello and thank you for this post!!! My son suffers too much from these and they are usually sudden. Tonight was one of the worst I did as your post said and he’s in no more pain. But my question is: do I leave the cotton ball in the ear when I put him back down for bed or do I take it out. And if I take it out how long do I leave it in for?

  8. Crystal says

    Hi Gwen, My son is 15 months old and has had 7 ear infections. One more and they are recommending tubes. His ears are currently not red, but fluid is present. Will the onion help the fluid drain? And possibly prevent an infection? If I do use an onion and he won’t let me hold it to his ear, would you recommend onion juice on a cotton ball in the ear? I’m too afraid to put anything inside the ears. I am also currently giving him probiotics and thinking of cod liver oil too. Is there any combination of these things that you would not recommend? And last question – would the onions work if they were near his head while he is sleeping? Many thanks !!!!!

    • says

      Hi Crystal,
      The onion properties address swelling, which helps with pain in our experience. But with chronic ear infections, you may want to look at ways to support his body in fighting a virus. I’d elevate his bed at night so the fluids have the ability to drain. I would not put onion near him, just because that’s a very unpleasant smell. You can hold it just below his ear on his neck and see if that targets the inner ear area more effectively. I agree in not putting anything in the ear canal. <3

      I had chronic tonsilitis as a baby, and my Mom had me scheduled for a tonsillectomy, but a friend recommended that she try alfalfa first. She started me on alfalfa while we waited for the surgery, and my infection cleared up and she was able to cancel the surgery. Tonsils and inner ear are very close companions, so that may be something to try. <3

    • says

      I’ve read that ear wax can be a sign that you’re not digesting fat well. I’ve done some reading on ear candles, and I don’t really see that there is much merit in using them. I’ve also heard people recommend that their doctor uses olive oil drops and then irrigates the ears. I think they sell kits for that. :)

      My Mom used to use the rounded end of a hairpin to gently remove extra wax. But that has to be done with great care.

  9. Korin says

    Hi I was just looking through some home remedies for my 5 year old who is on her second set of ear tubes…is it safe or will it hurt her if I used onion juice in her ears?? Her Having tubes I’m afraid to try anything. But we are so desperate!

    • says

      I would not put anything in the ears with tubes. But you should be able to use just a warmed half of an onion held over the ear or on the neck below the ear targeting the eustachian tube area.


    HORRIFYING ADVICE. I am a ENT. Your blog was brought to my attention tonight in the ER. BY ALL MEANS DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE- YOUR CHILDS HEARING IS AT STAKE.

    • says

      Can you explain why this is dangerous? I’ve used half of an onion or the juice many, many times to clear up ear pain, and it’s so quick and easy. We’ve never had any problems from it. It’s a very old, time tested remedy.

  11. Lynn wald says

    Hi Gwen:) the onion magic has proved itself in my house too. I have a six year old who I believe has fluid in her middle ear. She had a bad cough and very congested sinuses a couple weeks ago and the ear problem came too. Still somewhat congested sinuses and the fluid that I believe is in her middle ear. Our wonderful chiropractor said ears are fine, but she doesnt hear right, also they pop sometimes and ring. How would you recommend getting rid of the fluid ? Thanks

    • says

      Look up a video by Massage by Heather on YouTube for lymphatic massage. I couple that with warm onion held on the side of the neck, just under the ear to get the fluid moving out. :)


  1. […] Ear Infection Remedy Onion juice in the ears, or even just a warm onion half held over the ear for 10 minutes per side, allowing the juices and/or fumes to get down into the ear is an effective and historic remedy for ear infection. […]