Common Childhood Ailments: Ear Infections – Part 1

Ear Infection & Chiropractic CareContinuing with topics on common childhood ailments, let’s now talk about ear infections.   Ear infections are one of the most common reasons I see children in my office. Many of the kids that come in have had several ear infections, been on several different antibiotics, and cannot seem to stop the cycle.  Hopefully, if you are reading this, this does not sound like your situation. But, if it does, there is no need to worry. There are a lot of natural options out there to help in preventing and ridding your child of ear infections.

Ear Infection & Chiropractic CareFirst let’s talk about why ear infections are more common in infants and children and why it is something that is typically outgrown.  When your child is born their ear canals or Eustachian tubes are very short and almost horizontal.  As your child grows the Eustachian tubes get longer and begin to angle downward. When they start to angle downwards your children get a little bit more help from gravity to drain fluid from their Eustachian tubes and alleviate fluid backing up into their middle ear.  However, until this happens your child uses the muscles in their neck to help “squeegee” the lymphatic fluid down their neck so that it does not back up into the Eustachian tubes and middle ear. If your child’s joints and muscles are not working well enough to do this, or there is too much inflammation and fluid, it can back up into the Eustachian tubes and put pressure on the ear drum, causing pain and redness.

There are many things that happen in infancy and early childhood that put your child at an increased risk for fluid back up and inflammation in and around their ears. Here are just a few:

  •  Teething is the first thing that may come to mind.  While teething is a normal process, it does create a lot of inflammation and discomfort for your child in and around his or her jaw, which is very close to the Eustachian tubes.  Teething can also change the way the cranial bones move, which can lead to fluid back up. I know when my son is teething he always gets very snotty and has a runny nose. These are signs that his cranial bones are moving and growing differently.
  • Crying also can create inflammation and reddening of the eardrum. Because infants and toddlers cannot communicate their needs very well verbally, they will often cry to get your attention or communicate their feelings. However, there is a reflex when your child starts to cry that actually makes the ear drum turn red and appear inflamed.
  • Nursing or taking a bottle while lying on their back can cause fluid to get into the Eustachian tubes and cause irritation.  The Eustachian tubes go from the eardrum and middle ear to the back of the mouth.   If there is fluid sitting at the back of the mouth, it has the possibility of finding its way into the Eustachian tubes.  If the fluid sits in the Eustachian tubes long enough it can create inflammation and irritation.

Those are just a couple of reasons why your child’s ear may be irritated but not be infected. Other reasons for irritation of the eardrum include second-hand smoke, irritation from pool water and/or swimming, excessive intake of pro-inflammatory foods such as pasteurized dairy products, and so many more.

Many pediatricians today are very quick to diagnose ear infections.  The most frequent thing that I hear in regards to ear infections is that the pediatrician looked in my child’s ear and said it was infected because it was red and/or there was fluid behind the ear drum.  While just looking at the eardrum may be commonplace in pediatricians’ offices, there is no way for them to say with certainty that your child’s ear is infected just by looking in it.  There are many different reasons why your child’s ear may be red or have fluid behind the ear drum that do not involve an overgrowth of bad bacteria (see the list above).

Ear Infection & Chiropractic CareEven with fancy tests that measure how well the ear drum moves or hearing conduction tests, there is no sure-fire way to make sure your child’s ear is actually infected aside from culturing the ear to see if there is in fact bacterial overgrowth.  Ear infections are one of the most over-diagnosed conditions in children today, and antibiotics are far too easily being prescribed.  That being said, true ear infections can happen; however, in the majority of cases the “ear infection” clears up within seven days regardless of whether the child receives antibiotics or not.  Furthermore, it is recommended in the medical literature to use a “wait and see” approach when it comes to ear infections.

During this “wait and see” time frame many parents are not comfortable just waiting (and neither would I if it were my child).  So, what can you do before or instead of antibiotics?  There are many different natural remedies that have proven themselves over and over, and I will list a few of my favorites here:

  1. Chiropractic care.  There have been many studies on the benefits of chiropractic care on ear infections.  Chiropractic care will help your child’s neck muscles and joints to move and function like they should. This allows your child to more easily drain lymphatic fluid out of the head and neck region so that it does not back up into the Eustachian tubes and cause ear infection type symptoms.
  2. Cold Laser Therapy. Cold laser therapy helps to increase circulation and decrease inflammation in your child’s ears and neck to allow them to heal faster and feel better sooner.
  3. Immune system support. Supporting your child’s immune system will help them fight off any bad bacteria or virus that may be contributing to their symptoms.  For tips on how to boost your child’s immune system look here.
  4. Warm washcloth on the neck. This will help to relax muscles and increase circulation to help the fluid drain out of your child’s Eustachian tubes and down the lymph nodes in their neck.
  5. Massage the neck. By massaging the neck you can increase the circulation and lymphatic drainage to help relieve pressure in the Eustachian tubes.
  6. Essential Oils.  Massaging the neck with essential oils can also help to increase circulation and decrease pain in and around the ears.
  7. Garlic Drops. Garlic drops like the ones found here, can help to decrease inflammation and tenderness in the ear. Garlic also has antibacterial properties, so if there is any bacterial build up in the ear, the garlic will help your body fight it off.
  8. Colloidal Silver. Colloidal Silver is antimicrobial/viral/bacterial. Dropping a few drops into the ear every few hours will help fend off any bad invaders to your child’s system.

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog: Burst Eardrums and Tubes.

Dr. Andrew About Dr. Andrew

Dr. Andrew Dodge lives in Staunton, Virginia, with his wife Nicole and their children Luke and Josie. Dr. Andrew is a graduate of Parker College of Chiropractic at Parker University in Dallas, Texas.

Comments

  1. Ear infections are more common in children as compared to the elderly. Though, there may be several cause of ear infection, but the main cause is a buildup of fluid or bacteria near in the inner ear which can be painful and irritating. It is essential to treat the ear infection at right time as if it is not treated; it can grow deep in the ear which can result in pain and swelling. Ear infection can be treated with natural remedies and herbal medications. Garlic oil can be helpful in reducing the pain caused by ear infection.

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