Ear infections can hurt! Topical drops can ease the pain while watching to see if antibiotics are necessary. And if antibiotics are needed, while waiting for antibiotics to take effect.
A study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine evaluated prescription anesthetic ear drops versus an herbal product from Israel. Otikon Otic Solution in olive oil augmented by herbal extracts including garlic, mullein, and St. John’s wort. In this study of about 100 children, the herbal drops worked as well as the prescription drops. This is great news, except the study is from July 2001 and Otikon Otic Solution is no longer available, or at least not in the United States.
From my perspective, eardrops of some type should play a large role in the management of ear infections. My favorite would be to use garlic oil for ear infections, in a potent high-quality extra virgin olive oil as a base. They would include mullein and other key organic and wild foraged herbs.
Many ear infections can be safely managed without antibiotics if children are given pain relief while their bodies fight off the infections. Those infections that do require antibiotics generally cause enough pain that pain-relief drops should be used as well.
Most children do not get eardrops. I believe they should be used at least as often as antibiotics — but usually not for longer than 48 hours or so. By then the pain should be decreasing. If not, an antibiotic, a stronger antibiotic, or a re-evaluation is probably needed.