Ear infections

It’s hard for a parent to witness their child in pain. This holds true with the very common infection in the ear, otitis media. Most parents will notice the warning signs of an inner ear infection in their children with the onset of screams, tugging at the ear, fever and red cheeks. However, I have seen some kids come in the office completely stoic despite being amidst a raging ear infection.

Young children, from 6 months to 5 years of age, are most likely to develop ear infections. The most common reason children are brought into the doctor’s office is to have their ears looked at. Children who have repeated episodes of otitis media are a concern as this is the age when speech and language development is so important.

So how do these infections develop?

The ear contains a Eustachian tube that drains into the back of the throat. This tube constantly drains secretions from the inner ear and helps with pressure equalizations. If the Eustachian tube is inflamed, these secretions get backed up and build pressure inside the ear. This pressure leads to pain and the secretions can be a breading ground for bacteria.

Conventional treatment involves pain medication, antibiotics and surgically implanted ear tubes when the child is presenting with frequent infections that are affecting the child’s speech. Current trends are for doctors to take a watch and wait approach since it has been shown that most children with nonsevere ear infections recover without antibiotics.1

Natural medicine has much to offer when treating ear infections. We take the approach of boosting a child’s immune system, reducing the inflammation of the throat and around the Eustachian tubes to improve healing time and prevent recurring infections. For repeated infections, we look at discovering the culprits that are triggering these infections.

Some natural tips to consider are:

Breastfeed to ease pain, provide comfort and boost immunity
Keep your child hydrated
Feed babies where their head is at a 45 degree angle
Decrease sugar, juice and dairy intake
Decrease exposure to cigarette or wood smoke
Address colds and throat infections before they can lead into the ear

McCormick, David P, et al. 2005, Nonsevere Acute Otitis Media: A Clinical Trial Comparing Outcomes of Watchful Waiting Versus Immediate Antibiotic Treatment. Pediatrics 115:1455–1465.