Ear infections in children can be common and can create all sorts of unwanted side effects including fever, pain, trouble sleeping and decreased hearing just to name a few. Any mother or father who has nursed a child with an ear infection knows how important a quick recovery can be.
Causes of Ear Infections
Ear infections are caused by bacteria or a virus. Bacteria and viruses are present all around us. When we are healthy and have a strong immune system we are typically able to fend off any potentially harmful bacteria or virus that may cause us ill health. In the case of ear infections, bacteria and viruses take advantage of fluid accumulation in the ear. When fluid builds up in the ear and cannot drain properly bacteria and viruses make themselves at home and quickly begin to spread causing infection.
Infants and children are especially prone to ear infections because the shape of their ear tubes. In adults the ear tubes are angled down allowing the ear to drain as needed. In infants and children the tube lies flat creating an optimal environment for fluid accumulation and prime real-estate for bacteria and viruses.
The current and most popular form of treatment for ear infection is the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics can be helpful and even lifesaving in some serious circumstances but they do come at a high cost to our health. The goal of the antibiotic is to treat bacterial infections by killing off all bacteria. The problem is our body is filled with a lot of healthy bacteria, called our flora, that also gets killed in this process. The antibiotic does not search out attack only the bad bacteria that makes us sick, it wipes out our good bacteria too. It is this good bacteria that builds our immunity and helps keep us from getting sick. To kill off all our bacteria, good and bad, can help clear an immediate infection, like an ear infection, but ultimately leaves our immune systems weaker and even more venerable to attack by bad bacteria and viruses. In addition, antibiotics are often prescribed when it is uncertain if the cause of the infection is bacterial or viral. Antibiotics do not work for viruses but are commonly prescribed in spite of this fact.
It has been shown that the use of antibiotics can lead to later infections requiring more antibiotics. A study published in BMJ in 2009 found that children who have been treated antibiotics for an ear infection were at a higher risk for developing repeat ear infections than those not treated with antibiotics. The researchers conclusion suggested at having more stringent guidelines in prescribing antibiotics. Many other studies have also found found antibiotics to be no more helpful than the bodies own immune system when treating ear infections.
Chiropractic For Natural Treatment
Chiropractic is a great natural way to help treat infections. Gentle treatments to the upper neck region of the child can help to drain the ear of the infection. Gentle adjustments will ease pressure on the ear tube and surrounding tissues which may be inflamed as a result of the infection. Adjustments can help ease pain and increase or stimulate proper ear drainage.
Other Natural Treatment Options
- Probiotics can help to restore the natural balance of healthy bacteria in the body and increase the immune system
- Ear Drops with warm olive oil and garlic (do not use if ear drum has ruptured)
- Neck & Ear Massage to help drain fluid
- Tea Tree Oil rub over the mastoid process to help fight bacteria
Preventing Ear Infections
Preventing ear infections in your child is one of the best things you can do. Prevention begins with a building a solid immune system that is able to fend off harm bacteria and viruses on it's own. Immune systems of infants and children are just getting started which is why children often end up catching more colds, flus and infections than adults. Creating a healthy immune system is critical for good health in children. A healthy immune system is based on having a healthy balance of good bacterias aka a strong microbiome. Good bacteria in your body will help to fight off bad bacteria and viruses helping to prevent you from getting sick.
Tips For Increasing Your Good Bacterias
- Breastfeeding: Breast milk contains lots of good bacterias from the mother to help build the immune system of the infant.
- Probiotics: Adding probiotics in the form real foods and/or supplements can help to restore balance.
- Fiber: Insoluble fiber found in whole grains help to feed the good bacteria and is known as a prebiotic.
- Feed your baby upright as fluid make leak from the mouth and into the ear resulting in an infection
- Echinacea can help boost the immune system
- Avoid cigarette smoke as this can damage the natural balance of good bacteria in the nose, mouth and ears resulting in infection
By Dr. Keri Linane
Montclair Oakland Chiropractor