One of the most common problems in the pediatric population are ear infections (otitis media). Middle ear inflammation is the accurate description as there is no actual infection present, in most cases. Almost half of all children will have at least one middle ear infection during their first year, and by age three, over two-thirds of all children will have had at least one middle ear infection.
Symptoms include more obvious and some more subtle signs:
- Ear pain
- Dizziness, in older children
- Low appetite
- Less than normal activity
- Shaking the head
- Pulling on the ear
Causes of ear infections can be complex and multifaceted, including allergy, infection,mechanical obstruction, and nutritional deficiency.
Many cases of chronic ear infections are due to food or airborne allergies or hypersensitivity reactions. Allergies can cause significant pressure changes within the middle ear, as well as obstruction of the Eustachian tube. The most common allergens implicated in ear infection are cow’s milk and dairy products, wheat, eggs, chocolate, citrus, corn, soy, peanuts or other nuts, shellfish, sugar, and yeast. Dairy is the number one contributor to childhood ear problems. Proper allergy management, such as elimination and rotation diets, can produce dramatic recovery in allergic children with chronic ear infections.
If immune function is lowered for any reason, bacteria or viruses from the nose or throat can find their way into the middle ear and contribute to an ear infection. When these germs multiply, pus builds up behind the eardrum and increases the pressure, which leads to pain and swelling in the ear. Often a common cold with a stuffy, runny nose or a cough precedes the ear infection.
The obstruction of the Eustachian tube can be due to a mechanical misalignment. This blockage is due to problems of the structural components around the ear and eustachian tube, including the bones of the jaw, skull and neck, which move gently in synchronization with one another. The movement of these bones allows for the proper movement of the fluids in the head, including the fluids connecting between the sinuses, Eustachian tubes and ears. Many things can change the proper movement of the bones in the head, including falls, recurrent infections, and the trauma of birth (especially if tools were used).
Since an ear infection contains fluid that accumulates behind the ear drum, gentle movement of the bones of the head to allow drainage of the fluid can prevent and cure such an infection. Craniosacral work is the gentle movement of the bones of a child’s head and sacrum. Using craniosacral work for treatment and prevention of ear infections is especially helpful. Seek out a pediatric chiropractor, who specialize in cranial work for your child.
An organic, unprocessed, whole foods diet, low in sugar, is essential for creating good health with high immune function. Dietary fats, such as Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), are essential to normal immune and nervous system function, while reducing the predisposition to recurrent infections and inflammatory conditions. Essential fatty acids are found in flax oil, evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, krill oil, and fish oil. This should ideally be started by the mother while she is pregnant and during breast-feeding. One or two teaspoons per day of flax oil, depending on age, may be all the child needs.
Deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals can weaken a child’s immunity. It is valuable to give children a good multivitamin and mineral supplement. Vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc are essential to the immune system, protecting against ear infection, and the conversion of fatty acids, respectively.
Supplementation of the diet with intestinal bacteria is important to healthy immunity, especially if a child has been on antibiotics. L. acidophilus is recommended for children over age seven, and B. bifidus for children under seven.
Breastfeeding is important to ensure that a child has a healthy immune system. Mother’s milk contains all the immune protecting complexes the child needs. Also, the sucking action required to breastfeed also helps the Eustachian tubes open and close, which makes a difference in the frequency that a child is likely to get ear infections.
Antibiotics and Other Medications
Ear infections are rarely an emergency and usually will get better without antibiotic treatment, which is what is typically prescribed. A reasonable approach in treating a child with an ear infection, who is otherwise healthy, is to wait four days and see if the body will recover without antibiotics. If after four days, the infection has not gone away, antibiotics may make a difference. Keep in mind that if an allergic child continues to be exposed to an allergen, or if the main cause is not resolved, recurrent infections are likely.
From the perspective of the whole person, giving medications to block and suppress an illness can push the illness further into the body. Anti-inflammatory drugs block the formation of some chemicals that promote inflammation, while also blocking chemicals that naturally prevent inflammation, as well as trigger the release of substances that make inflammation worse.
Lifestyle habits make a significant difference in recurrent ear infections:
- Allergens: Remove food allergies and hypersensitivities.
- Positioning: A child should not lie down on his or her back to drink a bottle or feed, to be less likely to push fluids into the Eustachian tube.
- Breastfeed as much as you can, even more during a symptomatic period of earaches.
- Utilize nutritional supplements: EFAs, vitamin C & A, zinc.
- Probiotics to promote healthy intestinal bioflora.
- Consult with your holistic physician about use of antibiotics.
- Consult your pediatric chiropractor about gentle craniosacral work.
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Be healthy & happy, Dr. Tijana
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