Ear infections are one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood illnesses. The eustachian tube which helps to drain fluid out of the ear, is shaped differently in children and do not drain as effectively. So a child who has a cold or allergies to the environment or food are at increased risk of chronic ear infections. Ear infections are one of the leading reasons that children are prescribed antibiotics.
There are many effective ways to decrease the frequency and severity of ear infections. One of the most successful strategies, that is now endorsed by traditionally trained medical doctors including Dr. Sears, MD, is to identify and remove food allergies. Research has identified that children who are introduced to dairy, cow’s milk or formula, at 6 months of age of before have an increased risk of developing ear infections.
The digestive tract regulates immune function so many children with digestive issues also are plagued with chronic ear infections. Nutrient deficiencies like iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and essential fatty acids also contribute to frequent infections.
How can you tell if your child has an ear infection?
Your child has:
- a bothersome cold for a week especially if their is an increase in fussiness during a cold
- a nasal discharge that turns a little green and/or a cough especially if it keeps them up at night
- is up every hour extremely fussy with a fever or is very fussy during the day
- is complaining of ear pain or hearing loss
- has a fever – usually low grade (101º – 102º); may not have a fever
- has problems with ear drainage – if you see blood or pus draining out of the ear, then it is probably an infection with a ruptured eardrum. DON’T WORRY! These almost always heal and once the eardrum ruptures the pain subsides
New research is suggesting that 80% of uncomplicated ear infections will resolve within 4 to 7 days without antibiotics. Parents who choose not to use antibiotics can treat the pain and fever with Auralgan anesthetic ear drops and ibuprofen or acetominophen. Try to avoid over-treating with frequent antibiotics. There is usually a root cause of ear infections can usually be identified to help resovle and prevent an ongoing issue with chronic ear fluid and infections.
If your child has had several ear infections already, or you simple wish to lower her risk of getting them in the first place, here are some ways to prevent or at least lessen the frequency and severity of ear infections:
1. Breastfeeding. The medical literature strongly supports prolonged breastfeeding because it lowers your child’s chances of getting ear infections
2. Control allergies – food allergies and environmental allergies contribute to chronic immune issues
3. Cigarette smoke – there is strong evidence that smoking irritates baby’s nasal passage, which leads to Eustachian tube dysfunction
4. Echinacea - this is an herb which can safely and effectively boost the immune system
5. Chiropractic care – I firmly believe that chiropractic adjustments to the skull and neck can improve middle ear drainage and decrease ear infections.
6. Eat more raw fruits and vegetables – these can greatly boost your child’s immune system and help fight off infections.
7. Reduce sugar intake - 1 tsp of sugar decreases immune function for up to 5 hours
8. Probiotics - increase immune funciton, help to drain chronic ear fluid and prevent ear infection
9. Essential Fatty Acids - omega 3 fatty acids help to regulate and improve immune function