Three out of four children will have at least one “ear infection” by their third birthday, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. But do they really have an ear infection? Or, does a painful earache get treated as an infection leading to the unnecessary use of antibiotics?
The January 2014 issue of The Laryngoscope online Journal says ear infections “cost the U.S. health care system at least $2.88 billion annually and is a significant health-care utilization concern.” And talk about a financial burden on us parents!
After doing some extensive research on ear infections AKA otitis media, I have some good information to share with you on the cause, why you should avoid antibiotics, the best ways to prevent them and eight natural remedies you can try at home.
What Causes an Ear Infection?
An adult’s ear canal (Eustachian Tube) is slanted, making it easy for fluid in our lymph nodes and ears to drain into our throat and out of our body.
Young children’s ear canals, on the other hand, are shorter and straight across allowing fluid to easily build up in their lymph nodes, neck and throat. When this fluid gets backed up into their ear canal, it causes pressure on the back of the ear drum resulting in pain and swelling. If the fluid is trapped long enough, it can become infected by bacteria or viruses from the throat leading to an infection of the middle ear.
Bottle-feeding, the common cold, flu, allergies, dairy and other food sensitivities and exposure to cigarette smoke can all contribute to ear infections.
Did you know – ear infections are the most common reason antibiotics are prescribed to U.S. children under the age of 12? It turns out these antibiotics are simply causing more trouble.
Why Antibiotics Are Not The Answer
The CDC says 99% of children who visit the doctor for an ear infection get treated with antibiotics. But, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says 80% of kids with ear infections will get better on their own.
Even the leaders behind conventional medicine tell us we are overdoing it on the antibiotics. Besides having horrible adverse side effects, they are now causing treatment resistant bacteria strains. And an article from Consumer Reports explains why treating ear infections with antibiotics actually causes more ear infections. It says,
“Researchers think antibiotics might kill off some of the weaker bacteria causing a child’s infection, leaving more space for tougher, antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow. Another theory is that killing bacteria with antibiotics means less work for a child’s immune system, leading to weaker protection from infections in the future. We do know that antibiotics help ear infections clear up slightly more quickly, but for an illness that almost always goes away without treatment, it’s reasonable to weigh the benefits against the risks.”
CBS News Medical Correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, from The Early Show, also warns us that many children with ear infections will get better without antibiotics.
“It requires a lot of patience on the part of both the doctor and the parents to let it run its course,” she explains. “And most ear infections are caused by viruses, which don’t get treated with antibiotics, but most will get better on their own.”
It’s becoming more well-known that antibiotics should be more of a last resort when it comes to ear infections especially. In fact, the AAP has even tried to promote the “Wait-and-See” Approach to help educate doctors.
The AAP’s “Wait-and-See” Approach
Since 2004, The AAP has promoted the “Wait-and-See” approach for treating ear infections. Few doctors use it because of all the concerns about antibiotic resistance, but for the most part clinicians do not follow the new guidelines at all, according to the latest guideline report survey.
Allan Lieberthal, pediatrician and lead author of the AAP’s new guidelines for diagnosing ear infections, believes the medical profession has continued the “over-diagnosis of infection.” He says,
“The message is simple: Don’t prescribe antibiotics unless there is an obvious infection. After all, as good as antibiotics may seem, they don’t cure the sleep problems or pain the child feels. Basic rule of thumb for parents is: Don’t call the doctor for an antibiotic unless the child has a fever over 102 degrees or severe symptoms of cough, runny nose and ear pain.”
It’s safe to wait 48-72 hours and watch to see if those symptoms go away. Only if the cough and runny nose lasts for days or if your child’s fever rises, you should go to the doctor for a full evaluation. And don’t be afraid to ask for an ear swab and culture of the area while you’re there.
Chiropractor and nutritional educator, Dr. Jim Bob Haggerton explains in his article, that most pediatricians are too quick to medicate their patients for ear infections. In fact, they are writing up prescriptions for antibiotics before they even know for sure if there is an infection in the first place. Most times the Dr. will use the otoscope to look in the ear to check for redness, but this isn’t the right way to truly diagnose an ear infection. Dr. Haggerton says,
“The only way they can truly diagnose an infection in the ear is if they do a swab of the ear and actually culture the area. Then they can see whether or not your child actually has an infection. If they don’t do that then the problem more than likely is fluid build-up behind the ear drum. Or the area may simply be irritated (red, swollen and/or painful) due to teething because the ears are close to the gum/teeth/mouth area (and often react too when this area is under stress). Now of course, if your child is running a raging fever and the side of their face and head are on fire and the ear is oozing a colorful pus, then yes, you could definitely say they had an infection. But for the average child going into the peds office for discomfort, sleep issues or whatever the parent noticed lately, the problem isn’t necessarily an infection.”
Part of the reason doctors are quick to prescribe antibiotics, is because parents are anxiously asking for something that will help their child. I know how scary it can be as a parent when your child is cupping his ear telling you his head hurts and he looks like he’s in so much pain.
But instead of resorting to antibiotics right away, here are three excellent ways to avoid ear infections and eight natural treatments you can try at home.
3 of the Best Ways to Avoid Ear Infections
There are a several known ways ear infections can be prevented. Here are three of the best ways to avoid them.
Breastfeeding, is one of the best things a mother can do for her child right after she gives birth. The colostrum in the first few days of milk production is called “liquid gold” for a reason. It’s your child’s first major natural immunity boost. If for some reason breastfeeding isn’t possible for you, you can find colostrum to supplement with.
An article from AskDr.Sears.com explains how two pioneers in breastfeeding research, Derrick and Patrice Jelliffe, found that breastfed and formula fed babies are biochemically different in a way that makes breastfed babies healthier. When it comes to ear infections, breastfed babies are more likely to ward off infections for a few reasons:
- The germ-fighting ingredients in breastmilk fight bacteria so colds or fluid in the ears are less likely to turn to infection.
- Breastfed babies get less colds than formula fed babies. Less colds mean less ear troubles.
- Breastfed babies also have fewer respiratory allergies – another reason fluid builds up in the middle ear leading to infection.
Probiotics from yogurt, fermented foods or oral supplements are becoming very popular. People are starting to understand why we need more good bacteria in our gut to help fight off the billions of bad bacteria lurking in our intestines. We are also becoming more knowledgeable about how the health of our gut majorly coincides with our overall health and immunity.
A study done by Italian researches cited the International Journal of General Medicine, proved that oral probiotics restore intestinal integrity, reducing ear and throat infections significantly in children and adults – among other things.
3. Eliminate Food Allergens & Toxins
WebMD tells us that children with food allergens are more likely to get ear infections. Be aware of any food sensitivities your child might have. Big culprits include dairy, wheat, fish, corn, soy, eggs, nuts and even citrus. But there are many others.
Pollen, mold, cigarette smoke and other toxins in the air, drinking water and skin care products can also contribute to the underlying cause of fluid production and build up in the ear canal. The best way to test for food allergens is to do an elimination diet which basically removes all allergens from your diet and gradually adds them back in one by one to see how your body reacts.
It seems like each and every health issue almost always comes down to poor nutrition and crappy food. But if you do these three things along with making sure your children get the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, etc., their immune system will most likely be strong enough to fight off infection.
You can also try simple things like raising the head of the crib to help drainage from the ear canal, don’t let your baby have a bottle in bed, or you can even look into chiropractic care. In the meantime, here are eight more natural treatments you can try at home.
8 Natural Treatments For Ear Infections
Here are eight natural ways to treat or even further prevent ear infections…
A Neti-Pot washes dust, pollen and excess mucous from the nasal passages.
It rids the nostrils of allergens, and cleanses the nasal passages of dust, smoke, or other airborne contaminants.
Colloidal Silver is known as “Mother Nature’s Antibiotic”
- Learn more about Colloidal Silver Here.
Black elderberry is a potent source of antioxidant cell protection from free radicals and airborne elements.
It also supports the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Olive Leaf is superior immune support for seasonal wellness.
It acts as a natural anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-fungal.
Echinacea is an herbal immune booster.
It’s works as a natural support for relief of colds, coughs, runny noses, as well as sinus and ear infections.
Walley’s Ear Oil combines the herbal extracts and essential oils of Sweet Almond, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Mullein Extract, Echinacea, and Garlic to provide soothing relief of ear infections.
7. Onion Juice
Onion is another natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory food. Amanda, from The Eco-Friendly Family blog, used juice from an onion to calm her daughter’s pain.
- Read how she did it here.
During ear candling, the negative charge of herbal smoke works to cleanse the ear canal. (FYI- not to be done if the child has had tubes or if the ear drum is perforated)
- Learn more here.
Has your child experienced an actual ear infection? Have you ever tried the “wait-and-see” approach? What natural treatment sounds interesting to you?
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