You know the signs... tugging or pulling at their ear, trouble sleeping, fever, difficulty hearing, poor balance. Here's what's going on and how you can help.
Is your child suffering from inner ear infections? You are not alone. Acute otitis media is the most common condition for which antibiotics are prescribed in the US.[i] Between 84% and 93% of children have at least one episode by the time they are 1 year old, and the average toddler will have 2-3 infections per year.
Children are at greater risk for ear infections because their Eustachian tube, which is responsible for draining the fluid from the inner ear, is shorter, narrower and more horizontal. When inflammation from microbes or allergies causes this tube to swell, the inner ear fills with fluid and creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
There are well-known risk factors for developing frequent ear infections:
Spending time in daycare with 4 or more children
Exposure to tobacco smoke or pollution
Underlying disease such as cleft palate and allergies
Children who are breastfed for less than 3 months
There are several things parents can do at home to help:
Contact Master Home Environmentalist[ii] for a free home evaluation and get tips on how to decrease your child’s exposure to environmental allergens
Apply onion ear muffs: gently heat an onion half and hold it over your child’s ears. The volatile oils are anti-microbial and decrease inflammation while the warmth is soothing to irritated ears
Conscious food introduction can identify food allergies that increase inflammation
Discontinue pacifier use or only allow your child to use a pacifier that has been thoroughly disinfected
A naturopathic doctor can help your child feel better. We use herbs and physical medicine techniques such as cranial sacral therapy to help decrease inflammation and drain the fluid. We also use nutrients such as zinc, bioflavonoids and omega 3 fatty acids to improve immunity and decrease allergies. If needed, we can coach your family through an elimination diet to isolate problematic foods.
Remember that children less than 3 years old, with 3 months or longer of continuous otitis media, should be evaluated for hearing loss to prevent developmental delays.
[i] Coker TR, et al. Diagnosis, Microbial Epidemiology, and Antibiotic Treatment of Acute Otits Media in Children: A Systematic Review. JAMA. 2010 Nov 17:304(19):2161-69.
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