Healthy Family & Home

Treating ear infections – keeping a warm cloth on a wiggly child’s ear

When I was in elementary school, we lined our mittens up on the radiators in the classroom to dry them after a cold and snowy recess. If any of us developed an earache, our teacher would tell us to grab a hot mitten from the radiator and hold it to the ear.

If you don’t have a hot mitten nearby, I’ve got a nifty trick you can try using one of our earflap hats (also called an aviator hat), to hold a warm cloth in place on a child’s ear.

How does warmth help an ear infection?

An ear infection hurts because of pressure on the ear drum as it bulges to contain fluid that is building up. Heat works to help fluid in the ear break up and be on its way, thus relieving pressure on the ear drum.

But getting a child to lie still on his or her side and hold a cloth perfectly in place themselves for long enough can be a challenge.

A trick for keeping a warm cloth on a wiggly child’s ear

Put the earflap hat on your child without tying the strings. Then take a regular, dry wash cloth and microwave it for 20-25 seconds to warm it. (My husband and I also did this to warm our babies’ blankets after bath time.)

Check that the cloth is not too hot, just comfortably warm to the touch. If it’s too hot, wave it in the air a bit until it’s the right temperature, and then tuck it under the earflap next to the offending ear. Tie the strings under the chin. Let your child lay back and relax.

If your baby is up for it, you can also place them with their painful ear on your chest to provide warmth. But good luck getting your preschooler to do that!

And of course, we’re not doctors here. So make sure you get your child to a doctor if you suspect an ear infection.

While we’re on the topic, I highly recommend a trip to Web MD’s Ear Infection Health Center . You’ll find a vast number of articles dedicated to the topic, including worksheets to help you decide when to give antibiotics.

What about you? How do you get through dreaded ear infections with your little ones?