Acute otitis media (AOM) is an infection of the middle ear. It is the most common part of the ear to get infections.
AOM usually follows a cold or sore throat. The virus or bacteria travels through a short tube that joins the middle ear to the throat. Ear infections affect infants and children more often because the tube is shorter and narrower.
The infection causes a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum. This can lead to swelling, pain, or brief hearing loss.
Most middle ear infections go away on their own. Treatment involves a 2 to 3 day waiting period. Medications may help to ease symptoms. Antibiotics are used for suspected bacterial infections.
Some natural therapies may help to ease symptoms and prevent future ear infections. Most methods have little evidence supporting their benefits.
Herbal ear drops
Xylitol—a natural sugar used in many products as an artificial sweetener. May block the growth of certain bacteria. However, it may need to be taken several times a day over months to have a benefit.B1-B6
- Note: High doses may cause side effects
Unlikely to Be Effective
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in the gut. They are unlikely to be effective in preventing ear infections.C1-3
- Note: May be harmful for some people
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions.
- Herbal remedies are generally safe, but some may be irritating when used topically.
- Xylitol is generally safe, but in doses above 30 grams a day it may cause stomach upset and diarrhea.
- Probiotics may increase the risk of a dangerous infection in people with suppressed immune systems.
- Reviewer: EBSCO NAT Review Board Richard Glickman-Simon, MD
- Review Date: 02/2019 -
- Update Date: 02/22/2019 -