The 'Onion Cure' for Earache Oct 11, 2015 20:54:29 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 11, 2015 20:54:29 GMT -5
The 'Onion Cure' for Earache
Mothers have been saying it for years: if your child has an earache, reach for an onion. Though it sounds odd and the science on "natural" ear infection treatments is inconclusive at best, many parents insist an onion and its juice can work pretty well at relieving pain from an earache. There are a few different ways to do it, but generally the idea is to heat the onion, extract some of its juice and put a few drops into the infected ear. This is actually a home remedy that goes back to at least the 19th century.
The testimony is pretty enthusiastic, too. “Before I put the juice into her ear, she was simply unable to be soothed,” one blogger said of her sick toddler. But after administering the onion juice, “within minutes her body calmed (she had been contracting her legs and fidgeting a lot because of the ear pain) and she was able to rest peacefully once again.”
While skepticism of these glowing personal testimonials is warranted, there is limited scientific evidence that explains why the bizarre home remedy might work. There's no study that definitively proves that onions help with ear infections – and, if they do, which chemicals in onions might be responsible. The flavonoid quercetin, which is highly concentrated in onions as well as other fruits and vegetables, could be involved. Lab studies have shown that quercetin has certain anti-inflammatory properties, but it's unclear if it works the same way in humans; it's currently not a proven treatment for any disease. Still, if there is indeed an anti-inflammatory effect from an onion, that could theoretically help with swelling and pressure in the ear and relieve the pain. Ibuprofen, for example, is a known anti-inflammatory medication that's recommended for ear infection pain.
There's little research, however, on onion juice in particular. A 2001 study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine compared naturopathic drops containing garlic extract (not quite onion, but related) to more traditional painkilling drops. The researchers concluded that both kinds of drops helped reduce the pain of ear infections, though a more recent review of the research on ear drops found "no strong evidence that herbal ear drops were effective." The official treatment guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say there are "no studies that conclusively show a beneficial effect of alternative therapies used for" ear infections.
There are a few things that could explain parents' enthusiastic endorsement of the "onion cure." First, most ear infections get better on their own. (You should still see a doctor because these infections can sometimes have serious complications.) Using an onion on these kids might give the illusion that it's helping, even if it's just the pain easing up as the infection naturally takes its course. Other ear infections, especially in young children, may be misdiagnosed: Screaming toddlers are often diagnosed with ear infections when it's actually nothing of the kind.
There are, however, a few elements of the warm-onion-juice treatment that overlap with more established protocol. A warm compress, for example, often helps relieve ear pain. Liquid drops in the ear can be soothing no matter what that liquid is (within reason). And the placebo effect should not be overlooked here; if a child thinks they are getting an effective treatment, they're much likelier to improve. A thorough review of the evidence on a wide variety of ear drops by the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent panel of experts, summed it up nicely: "It is hard to know if [the pain relief] was the result of the natural course of the illness; the placebo effect of receiving treatment; the soothing effect of any liquid in the ear, or the pharmacological effects of the ear drops themselves."
You should always see a doctor about an ear infection because antibiotics can often provide not only pain relief but actually cure the infection. Yet some ear infections are viral instead of bacterial, so they can't be treated with antibiotics. Doctors will often make patients wait a few days before a follow-up visit to see if it resolves on its own. In the meantime, there's no harm in asking if you can try an onion – though a doctor might suggest you try a proven an over-the-counter pain reliever first.
So, how do you do it? Be careful. Foreign bodies in the ear – which includes anything that doesn't belong there, be it an insect or an onion – can lead to pain and even hearing loss. Always proceed with caution when following the medical advice of bloggers.
If you want to try out this treatment that parents swear by though, here's how to do it: First, place the onion in the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or into a microwave on high until soft. Remove the onion and once it’s cool, cut it in half and squeeze any juice into a small bowl. Strain out any “stuff” from the juice with a paper towel or coffee filter and fill a medicine dropper with the remaining liquid. Administer a few drops and you’re done.
Another “age old self-healing trick” is to just place a warm onion over your ear or place the “onion heart” – that tiny little nub in the center of the onion – into your ear and let it sit over night.
Though there’s no explicit juice extraction in these tips, the principal is essentially the same – the goal is to get the onion juices inside the ear canal. With this in mind, it’s probably easier to simply extract the juice in the first place.
Source: Megan Willett, TechInsider, October 6, 2015.