Ear infections are caused by bacteria, viruses, and even fungi getting trapped in the inner, middle, or outer ear. Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults.

More commonly, a cold, flu, allergies, or smoking may be the catalyst.

Conditions that may increase the risk for ear infections in adults include:

An earache may be a sign of mild ear infection. Usually, this will go away on its own. However, if an earache doesn’t go away after three days, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. This is especially true for children. Whether you’re a child or an adult, you should see a doctor if you have:

Apple cider vinegar may help mild ear infections and earaches at home. It has antimicrobial properties, meaning it kills bacteria, fungi, and possibly viruses.

There are no studies to definitively prove that apple cider vinegar cures ear infections, but it does contain acetic acid. According to studies, acetic acid is antibacterial, which means it kills bacteria. Another study shows apple cider vinegar can also kill fungi. A third study has shown apple cider vinegar to be effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be considered a replacement for a visit with your doctor or traditional treatment for ear infections. It should only be used for outer ear infections. Middle and inner ear infections should be seen and treated by a doctor, especially in children.

Apple cider vinegar with warm water ear drops

  1. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with warm, not hot, water.
  2. Apply 5 to 10 drops in each affected ear using a clean dropper bottle or baby syringe.
  3. Cover your ear with a cotton ball or clean cloth and lean on your side to let drops enter and sit in the ear. Do this for about 5 minutes.
  4. Repeat this application as often as desired to fight ear infection.

Apple cider vinegar with rubbing alcohol ear drops

This recipe is identical to the one above except it involves rubbing alcohol instead of warm water. Rubbing alcohol is also antimicrobial, and it’s antibacterial, which can help ear infections.

  1. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).
  2. Apply 5 to 10 drops in each affected ear using a clean dropper bottle or baby syringe.
  3. Cover your ear with a cotton ball or clean cloth and lean on your side to let drops enter and sit in the ear. Do this for about 5 minutes.
  4. Repeat this application as often as desired to fight ear infection.

Apple cider vinegar warm water gargle

Apple cider vinegar can also be gargled to help ear infections. It’s not as directly effective as ear drops but can be of extra help, especially for colds, the flu, and upper respiratory infections.

Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with warm water. Gargle with this for about 30 seconds two to three times per day to help with ear infections or their symptoms.

Ear infection symptoms in children include:

  • earache
  • inflammation
  • pain and tenderness
  • fussiness
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever

In adults, symptoms may include:

  • earache
  • inflammation and swelling
  • pain and tenderness
  • hearing changes
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • fever

If an earache or infection doesn’t go away after three days, see a doctor. Always see a doctor if ear discharge, fever, or loss of balance occurs with an ear infection.

There are other home remedies for ear infections you can try. None of these should replace doctor visits or traditional treatments.

They should also only be used for outer ear infections. Middle and inner ear infections should be seen and treated by a doctor.

Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate essential oils so be sure to purchase them from a reputable source. Prior to using any essential oil, test a drop or two on a small area of your skin for 24 hours to see if any reaction occurs. Always follow directions on labels for specific essential oils and keep out of the reach of children.

Some research supports the use of apple cider vinegar for helping treat ear infections at home, but more studies are needed. Apple cider vinegar could be especially helpful for mild outer ear infections when used correctly in children and adults.

No home remedy should replace doctors’ recommendations and medications. If ear infections worsen, last for more than three days, and accompany fever or other symptoms, stop use of apple cider vinegar and see your doctor.