Besides the common cold, ear infections are the most commonly diagnosed childhood illness in the United States, with 3 out of 4 kids having at least one ear infection by three years of age (Kids Health, 2013). Unfortunately, this common infection is one of the most common reasons for antibiotic prescriptions in the first years of life. Because gut health is established before three years of age, the sad result of early antibiotic use is abnormal gut function and flora for the rest of the child’s life. Fortunately, there are effective alternative treatments for treating ear infections. Of the 500 ear infections we treat annually at DBC, we’ve had a huge success rate using these alternative modalities.
Alternative therapies, in fact, are not that uncommon in other parts of the world. When I first moved to Grand Rapids from Europe, I was shocked to see antibiotics being used to treat ear infections, because in my home country, The Netherlands, it is very much frowned upon and is not considered medical protocol.
When I first set up my practice 25 years ago, there was even a petition being circulated among pediatricians to use other means beyond antibiotics. These included manual drainage, soft tissue massage in the neck, stretching, and techniques to open up the nose passageways.
Twenty-five years later, I still don’t see these therapies being implemented, to the great detriment of our new generation.
The Problems with Early Antibiotic Use
Besides altering gut flora and natural immunity to fight infections, most ear infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Therefore, treating them with antibiotics will not help the virus, and children may develop antibiotic resistance, when antibiotics can no longer cure bacterial infections. This can lead to resistant infections that are difficult to treat (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2013).
Also, when antibiotics are used, recurrence is higher within three months, and research shows the benefits from antibiotic use in children is very small (Johnson, 2011).
Finally, antibiotic use in infants before six months is also associated with being overweight in childhood (Klein, 2012).
Note: In most cases, ear tubes can be avoided as well. My experience is that they give temporary relief, but increase the risk of deeper infections due to the open passageway. They may also impede the real ear tube from developing properly, and when the ear tubes finally come out, the same problems may still persist. Additionally, scar tissue in the eardrum may have long-term implications for ear problems later in life.
Natural Ways to Treat Ear Infections in Children
Rather than turning to antibiotics, here are the homeopathic treatment options we use at DBC to effectively treat ear infections:
1) Remove dairy products in the child’s diet and the mother’s diet, if the child is still breastfeeding.
The association between cow milk exposure and recurrent ear infections in children has been well documented for over 50 years, likely due to an allergy (Greger, 2013). Eliminating dairy in the child’s (and mother’s) diet significantly reduces the overall incidence rate.
2) Avoid supine bottle feeding, which can increase the risk of clogged ear ducts.
3) Effective nutraceuticals
When I diagnose an ear infection, I typically recommend the following supplements from Nature’s Remedies:
· D-89 Otitis and/or Allimax Oil – This helps reduce ear pain.
· Pulsatilla – This helps to reduce drainage.
· Belladonna – This is effective if the baby has a runny nose, red cheeks, and/or fever.
· Sinusen – This is effective if a runny or stuffy nose is present. Otherwise, chopping an onion and placing by the child’s crib will help clear the child’s sinuses.
· Sinus Relief Pillow – This contains many herbs, such as eucalyptus, which can help clear the child’s sinuses when placed near the baby.
4) Chiropractic adjustments and stretching
I’ve found consistent, effective results with adjusting the child’s upper neck, which promotes drainage of the ear and supports immune function. I also gently stretch and manipulate the upper neck to get rid of anything blocking drainage, and gently massage the Eustachian tube, which runs from ear lobe along the jaw.
Pain is usually relieved within a few hours after the manipulation. I’ve even heard stories of toddlers hearing gurgling on the way home from our office, which indicates drainage. Within 12 – 24 hours, significant improvement overall is very typical with these remedies.