Many children in the United States suffer from recurring middle ear infections, known as Otitis Media.
In fact, 3 out of 4 children will experience at least one ear infection by the time that they are 3 years old.
Ear infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or be the result of allergies, and include symptoms such as severe pain, fever, and irritability. The most common conventional treatment is antibiotics, but these will only work for bacterial infections (many ear infections are actually viral infections), and often don’t resolve the underlying condition. The result is then more recurring ear infections and subsequent antibiotic prescriptions. This in turn can create antibiotic resistance, persistent gastrointestinal distress for the child, and a myriad of other problems. Recurring ear infections can even temporarily or permanently damage your child’s hearing, also resulting in speech delays. For this reason, prevention and treatment of the underlying condition is of utmost importance.
One of the causes of persistent ear infections is actually allergies, both seasonal and allergies to certain foods. Allergies create an accumulation of fluid in various compartments of the body, including the middle ear. This fluid accumulation provides a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. These organisms cannot grow well without the fluid. Eliminating the causes of fluid build-up, by both reducing allergen exposure and receiving chiropractic adjustments to relieve compression around the ear, can reduce the frequency of ear infections.
Ear infections also occur after a child’s immune system has been lowered for any reason. A child’s Eustachian Tube is short, narrow, and horizontal. Because of this, bacteria and viruses (from a common cold for example) can easily make their way to the middle ear. If there is also misalignment of the structures around the ear, the microbes build up and grow even more. There is new research that the overuse of antibiotics and vaccines given early in life can contribute to recurring ear infections. As Dr. Brenda Trudell of New Beginnings Chiropractic explains, “Antibiotics given early in life, or with the first ear infection may alter infants’ immune systems in such a way that they are unable to fight off infections on their own. Some vaccines are known to lower immunity for a period of time, which can make an infant more susceptible to viral or bacterial infections. And six childhood vaccines, including Hib, have “Otitis Media” listed as a common adverse reaction, meaning the vaccine itself is a known cause of ear infections. With vaccines given at birth, 2,4,6 and12 months, it may be a reason why 62% of children are diagnosed under the age of one. A large study in New Zealand showed that vaccinated children were 3 times as likely to get OM than unvaccinated children” (http://newbeginningschiropractic.net/chiropractic-approach-to-childhood-ear-infections/) For this reason, she recommends that children who are showing any signs of illness or fever, NOT be vaccinated at that time. If their immune system is busy fighting off something else they will be more susceptible to a vaccine-induced ear infection.
Childhood ear infections can also be caused by trauma at birth and in this case it is especially important to visit your chiropractor. Infants born via C-section, forceps, or vacuum, are at a much higher risk of spinal and cranial injury and should be seen soon after birth by a chiropractor who specializes in Pediatrics. Babies who are born via C-section and thus were not exposed to the beneficial bacteria of their mother’s vagina are at an even greater risk of developing recurring ear infections.
One natural treatment for ear infections it to put drops of organic garlic infused olive oil or breastmilk in the ear (not to be used if a rupture is present). Supplementing your child with 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D (supplement yourself with 5,000 IU if you are breastfeeding a baby or child), up to 250 mg of vitamin C, and a high quality probiotic will also help their overall health. Exclusively breastfed infants also have much lower rates of ear infections. Most importantly though, if you are planning on treating your child’s ear infections naturally, it’s imperative to clear the fluid out of the ear and open up the space where the bacteria or virus is growing. Otherwise any treatment is going to be short-lived at best. The conventional medical treatment of this scenario is to insert tubes in the child’s ears. Ear tubes are tiny cylinders placed through the ear drum (tympanic membrane) to allow air into the middle ear. The insertion of ear tubes is currently the most common childhood surgery requiring general anesthesia. Both general anesthesia and antibiotics are serious medical interventions that are not without risks. Chiropractic adjustments of the neck and skull have been recommended by many doctors, including Dr. Sears, to aid in the treatment and prevention of ear infections in children, and these adjustments may prevent the need for tubes. Dr. Joan Fallon DC, describes her treatment of ear infections in an article for the American Chiropractic Association.
Before yet another round of “maybe-they’ll-work-and-maybe-they-won’t” antibiotics or the drastic step of surgery, more parents are considering chiropractic to help children with chronic ear infections. Dr. Joan Fallon has published research showing that, after receiving a series of chiropractic adjustments, nearly 80 percent of the children treated were free of ear infections for at least the six-month period following their initial visits (a period that also included maintenance treatments every four to six weeks). “Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies and recover more quickly,” explains Dr. Fallon. She’d like to see her pilot study used as a basis for larger-scale trials of chiropractic as a therapeutic modality for otitis media. (http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=69)
Chiropractic adjustments for ear infections usually involve the bones of the neck, skull, jaw, and cervical spine. Correcting the alignment of the small bones in the head and neck allow fluid to properly move and drain. As Dr. Trudell explains, “Chiropractic adjustments remove interference within the nervous system by correcting misalignments in the spinal column, jaw and possibly cranial bones, without the use of drugs or surgery. Correcting misalignments also reduces muscle tension, decreases inflammation, increases mobility, and establishes proper blood flow and lymph drainage, all of which can affect the function of the middle ear and Eustachian tube.” These adjustments are very gentle and nothing to fear! Relief can even begin as early as the first treatment.
If your child is suffering from recurrent ear infections, come and see us at Pea and the Pod! There are many factors that impact recurring ear infections and Dr. Brenda can help you find which health and lifestyle changes will help your family. We also are proud to now have an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant on staff, Mona Liza Hamlin. Exclusively breastfed babies have lower rates of ear infections and if you need help with nursing your little one please give us a call!