The phone rings. I pick it up.
“What is it, love?”
“Are you coming into the city soon?”
“I could. Why?”
“I’ve got an earache starting. And I feel terrible.”
“Okay, I’ll leave right away.”
“And mom, could you bring the stuff to make the ear drops?”
“I’m packing it as we speak.”
That conversation, or variations thereof, happens at least once a year with our second daughter. Doesn’t matter that she’s a university student, living in an apartment in the city, that she’s traveled the world, lived and worked overseas, and runs her own business in the summers.
She still needs mom when she has an earache. And she still needs the magical drops that have fixed her earaches since she’s been a little girl.
Being a mom has its rewards. It’s like a warm hug when we find that our kids still need us, no matter how big they are.
Olivia had earaches often when she was a toddler – any mom with a child suffering from earaches can relate to the crying and pain that comes with that, and the feeling of helplessness when you can’t quickly alleviate your child’s agony. It seemed like it was always night time when the earache pain peaked, and it was always several hours before we could get her to a doctor for antibiotics, which would take many more hours before they’d start to work. Exhausting . . . for both of us.
My mom suggested warm oil, and then I read somewhere about using tea tree oil for its antibacterial properties, diluted in olive oil as a carrier oil. We tried it cautiously that first time, and it was magic. Within minutes the screaming, red-faced, ear-clutching toddler calmed down, and shortly thereafter was able to sleep peacefully. What was this stuff?
We started using a few drops of the diluted oil in her ears whenever signs of earache showed themselves, and they always worked to head off a full-blown ear infection before it could hunker down and settle into her ear. As she got older she knew to ask for the drops to be put into her ear at the first sign of pain in her ears. Often she only needed one application of the ear drops, and in occasional cases we needed to administer the drops a couple more times before the earache was totally gone. And now even as a young adult, the magical drops are still called on to do their thing.
Kitchen Frau Notes: In rare cases, people can have a slight sensitivity to tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) oil. Rub a bit of the diluted oil onto the inside of the child’s forearm before using the drops for the first time. If a red patch develops, they may have a sensitivity to tea tree oil and should not use these drops in their ears.
I mix these drops up as I need them, and only keep them for a day or two, as the essential oils in the tea tree oil can dissipate into the air with time. It’s best to mix up a fresh batch for each ear infection episode.
You can buy a medicine dropper at a drugstore, or save one from another use (vitamin dropper, or infant pain reliever bottle), and clean it well.
Magical Tea Tree Oil Ear Drops
- 1 part good quality tea tree oil
- 3 parts olive oil
- small clean jar or container (I use a small shot glass)
- a clean medicine dropper
- cotton ball
* I use ¼ teaspoon tea tree oil to ¾ teaspoon olive oil
Stir the tea tree oil together with the olive oil. Have the child lay their head sideways with the painful ear on top. With the medicine dropper, drip 2 or 3 drops of the oil into the ear canal. With a young child, it works best if you sit down and have them lay with their head in your lap.
Use your finger to gently push on the little flap of cartilage over the ear canal (the tragus) several times to ensure the oil flows down into the canal and doesn’t airlock at the opening of the ear. Have the child lay with their head sideways for a few minutes if possible, to allow the oil to coat the inside of the ear. Tear off a piece of the cotton ball and place it gently into the opening of the ear canal to catch any leaks. Alternately cover the child’s pillow or bed with a towel to catch any oily residue if they are sleeping.
Reapply the oil every 3 to 4 hours until all signs of ear pain are gone.
Discard oil after 24 hours and make a fresh batch. Wash the dropper once the ear infection is over by drawing clean soapy water into the dropper and expelling it forcefully several times, rinsing it with clean water, then leaving the dropper to air dry.