The Homeopathic Treatment of Earaches
Excerpted from Homeopathic Family Medicine , an e-book by Dana Ullman, MPH. This e-book is updated regularly whenever new clinical research is published. Go to www.homeopathic.com to see 6 free (!) chapters OR to purchase a one-time download of this e-book or a 2-year subscription.
Bottom line: Clinical experience and some research have shown rapid resolution of ear infections with individually chosen homeopathic medicines. People who experience recurrent ear infections are best treated by a professional homeopath.
Earaches have become so common today in American children that they are the number one reason that parents take their child to a physician. One of the reasons for this recurring problem is that antibiotics may reduce the infection, but they tend to increase the chances for return of the ear problem.
Homeopathic medicines are wonderfully effective in treating this common ailment. Although recurrent or severe earaches may require the care of a professional homeopath, there are several homeopathic remedies that primary care providers and people can use at home to heal acute earaches.
A randomized double-blind placebo controlled study prescribed individualized homeopathic medicines or placebo to 75 children (Jacobs, 2001). There were 19.9% more treatment failures in children given a placebo. Diary scores showed a significant decrease in symptoms at 24 and 64 hours after treatment in favor of those given a homeopathic medicine. What was particularly impressive about these results was that improvement from homeopathic medicines occurred rapidly and within the first day.
Another study that also provided evidence of rapid resolution of ear infection in children given a homeopathic medicine was a trial of 230 children (Frei and Thurneysen, 2001). These children were given an individually chosen homeopathic medicine. If pain reduction was not sufficient after just six hours, another individually chosen homeopathic medicine was prescribed. The researchers found that 39% of patients experienced sufficient pain reduction in the first 6 hours and another 33% after 12 hours. This improvement was 2.4 times faster than in children prescribed a placebo.
Another study compared children with ear infections who were treated with homeopathic medicines and those who were treated with antibiotics (Friese, 1996). The researchers found that over 30% of children given an individually chosen homeopathic medicine experienced significant improvement in three hours, while only 11.5% of children prescribed an antibiotic experienced similar relief. The experimenters also found that the average duration of pain for children taking a homeopathic medicine was two days, compared to three days for those taking an antibiotic. Of particular importance was that 70.7% of children given the homeopathic medicine had no further recurrence of ear infection during the next year, but only 56.6% of children given an antibiotic had no further recurrence.
One study compared individualized homeopathic treatment with standard conventional medical treatment in children with otitis media (Harrison, Fixsen, Vickers, 1999). This study was randomized but not double-blinded. The researchers found that more children given homeopathic treatment had a normal tympanogram after 12 months than children given conventional medical care.
A prospective, open (not double-blinded) study was conducted with 390 children aged 1-10 years with uncomplicated otitis media, in which half of the children's parents choose conventional medical treatment and half choose homeopathic treatment (Wustrow, 2004). Those children who were given conventional medical treatment were given one or more of the following: decongestant nose drops, mucolytics, analgesics, and/or antibiotics. Those children who were given a homeopathic medicine were given a single formula called Otovowen (a combination of several homeopathic medicines). Children given this homeopathic medicine could also take conventional medications.
Children given conventional treatment took more antibiotics (80.5% vs. 14.4%; P=.001) and analgesics (66.8% vs. 53.2%; P=.007). Absence from school or preschool was 1.7 days in both groups. Homeopathic treatment was judged to be better tolerated by the children by both doctors and parents. The researchers concluded that this homeopathic formula may substantially reduce the use of antibiotics without disadvantage to the clinical outcome.
This research suggests that homeopathic medicines work fast, even faster than antibiotics, and that children taking homeopathic medicines are less likely to experience recurrent ear infections.
·· = medicines most commonly indicated for children with an earache
· = other important medicines to consider
·· Belladonna (deadly nightshade)
This remedy is useful for earaches that start suddenly, with intense throbbing or shooting ear pain, and has a bright red outer ear or ear canal, accompanied by a high fever. The pains are commonly worse on the right side and may extend to the throat. The child may concurrently have a headache, and all of the above symptoms tend to be worse by motion and at night and may be relieved by sitting semi-erect and with warm applications. These children are sensitive to light, noise, or being jarred. This remedy is often indicated in children with a high fever, a flushed and hot face, glassy eyes with dilated pupils, and cold feet and hands. The child is usually not thirsty, except for lemonade. Children who need this remedy tend to be delirious during sleep and have nightmares, usually of animals, which cause them to cry out during sleep. This remedy is not commonly given after the third day of an ear infection.
·· Pulsatilla (windflower)
This medicine is usually determined more by the way the child is acting than the specific pain s/he experiences. It is useful when the child becomes whiny and extremely clingy to a parent, wants to be hugged, cuddled, and even rocked. The child needs and craves attention and sympathy. The ear pain tends to be worse at night, in a warm room, and by exposure to heat, and the child usually has little or no thirst. The child who needs this remedy tends to have a changeable mood, happy and play in one minute and crying and sad the next. In advanced cases, there may a thick yellow or green discharge from the ear or nose. The ear pains may be slightly reduced with cold applications. Often, the ear infection develops after experiencing a common cold.
· Aconitum (monkshood)
This remedy is typically given during the first 48 hours of an ear infection if there is a rapid onset of pain, if the problem began after exposure to cold, and if the child has a noticeable increase in thirst. Typically, a fever accompanies the ear infection, as well as a dry cough and a congested nose. The child may be restless, anxious, and in some cases frantic.
· Chamomilla (chamomile)
When the child with an earache becomes hyperirritable, extremely fussy, aggravated by touch, by bending or stooping over, and by cold air (especially cold drafts), and is temporarily relieved by being cradled and rocked, consider this remedy. The child may demand something but then push it away when it is offered. The child is extremely impatient and cannot be consoled. This remedy is also useful for infants with an earache who are concurrently teething or in children after they have been chilled. One cheek may be red and hot while the other is cold and pale, suggesting that the infant may be teething at the same time that ear pain is occurring.
· Calcarea carbonica (calcium carbonate)
This remedy tends to be indicated in children who are pudgy, pale, chilly, and obstinate and when every cold becomes an earache. These children tend to have large heads that sweat profusely, and they crave eggs and sweets.
· Hepar sulphuris (Hahnemann's calcium sulphide)
This remedy is useful for the hyperirritable child who is hypersensitive to any type of touch (they hate to be examined) or exposure to cold (they may want to wrap up their head to keep their ears from getting cold). The child that will benefit from this remedy is also emotionally hypersensitive and will be very irritable, with a tendency to throw tantrums. Their earache may be accompanied by a thick discharge from the ear or nose. They may have sharp ear pain that feels like a splinter and which extends to the throat. Typically, children who need this remedy experience their worst pain late at night.
· Mercurius (mercury)
This remedy is one of the most common remedies for children with chronic ear infections, though it is also useful in select acute situations. There is usually much pus and a gluey, burning, and offensive-smelling discharge that is green or sometimes yellow. The right ear tends to be affected more than the left. The child may also have a concurrent cold or eye infection with a similar discharge. A sore throat with swollen glands may also be experienced. Children who have an earache and are sensitive to extremes of heat and cold temperature and who experience profuse sweating at night often benefit from this remedy. They also tend to have increased salivation at night in bed, swollen tonsils and lymph glands and noticeably offensive bad breath.
· Mercurius iodatus flavus (proto-iodide of mercury)
If the child has the same symptoms as Mercurius but the child only experiences ear pain on the right side, consider this remedy.
· Mercurius iodatus ruber (bin-iodide of mercury)
If the child has the same symptoms as Mercurius but the child only experiences ear pain on the left side, consider this remedy.
Give the 6, 12, or 30th potency every other hour during intense pain and every four hours in more mild discomfort.
Relief is commonly experienced within a couple of hours or after a night's rest. If a child still has pain 24 hours after a homeopathic remedy has been given, consider giving another remedy or seek professional homeopathic attention. (The various Mercurius products listed above are best taken in the 12th or 30th potency.)
- H. Frei and A. Thurneysen, "Homeopathy in Acute Otitis Media in Children: Treatment Effect or Spontaneous Resolution?" British Homeopathic Journal, October, 2001,90:180-182.
- K.H. Friese, S. Kruse, H. Moeller, "Acute Otitis Media in Children: A Comparison of Conventional and Homeopathic Treatment," Biomedical Therapy, 1997,15,4:113-122 (reprinted from Hals-Nasen-Ohren (HNO), August, 1996:462-66.
- H. Harrison, A. Fixsen, A. Vickers. A Randomized Comparison of Homoeopathic and Standard Care for the Treatment of Glue Ear in Children, Complementary Therapy in Medicine 1999, 7:132-135.
- J Jacobs, DA Springer, D Crothers, "Homeopathic Treatment of Acute Otitis Media in Children: A Preliminary Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial," Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 20,2 (February 2001):177-183.
- T.P. Wustrow, Alternative versus Conventional Treatment Strategy in Uncomplicated Acute Otitis Media in Children: A Prospective, Open, Controlled Parallel-Group Comparison, International Journal Pharmacological Therapy, 2004 Feb; 42(2):110-9.