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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(4):721-722

Otitis media is the most common condition for which parents take their children to a physician's office. The majority of these children have an earache with this condition, and treating the pain can provide comfort for the children and reduce parental anxiety. A mixture of ametocaine and phenazone dissolved in dehydrated glycerine has been used successfully in Israel to relieve ear pain. The use of herbal remedies has increased substantially in the past few years. One such remedy used to reduce ear pain is a naturopathic ear drop combination of Allium sativum, Verbascum thapsus, Calendula flores and Hypericum perforatum in olive oil. Sarrell and associates compared the effectiveness of the naturopathic herbal combinations with the ametocaine and phenazone combination in the treatment of ear pain in children with acute otitis media.

Study participants were children six to 18 years of age who presented to primary pediatric community ambulatory care centers with ear pain and were diagnosed with acute otitis media. They were randomly assigned to treatment with the herbal extract or the combination ear drops. Ear pain was assessed using two visual analog scales, a linear scale, and a color scale. Data on pain were obtained 15 and 30 minutes after the instillation of the ear drops and again at days 2 and 3 after treatment. Other measurements of success included a reduction in ear pain of 75 percent or more at 48 hours, and improvement in the child's appearance, activity level, and sleep quality.

The two treatment groups did not differ in age, gender, laterality of acute otitis media, or initial pain scores. After treatment, there was no difference between the groups with regard to reduction of pain at all points that were measured. Ear pain was significantly reduced in both groups during the treatment course.

The authors conclude that the naturopathic herbal extract was as effective as the combination drops in treating ear pain associated with otitis media. Neither of these treatments was associated with any adverse reactions, and each relieves ear pain in children with acute otitis media.

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