I won't deny that in my down time I creep on Facebook a lot. And the hot topic that I have been seeing everywhere is ear infections! I am part of a natural parenting group for the Sioux Falls area so I see LOTS of parenting posts in addition to all of my friends that have children. Unfortunately, most people have come to the conclusion that ear infections are a "normal" part of childhood. Of course the most common "cure" or "treatment" is antibiotics. Now before everyone gets all excited I completely understand that every parent is trying to do what is best for their child. And when you have a child who has a fever and is screaming and tugging at their ears, it seems you would be willing to anything to help them. I get that. I am a mother myself and there is nothing I hate more than seeing my daughter in pain or discomfort.
That being said, let's look at some facts concerning both ear infections and antibiotics. First, if your child is just tugging at their ears (especially both ears) and has no fever, it could be teething pains. This is completely normal and a watch and wait method is the recommended course of action. But for the children who are presenting with fevers in addition to ear tugging, let’s look at some viable options. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) released new guidelines on the treatment of acute otitis media (ear infections) in 2009 breaking down different presentations of children indicative of ear infections. For mild to moderate presentations, pain management and observation is the appropriate recommended course of action.
Unfortunately, many parents are desperate for immediate results and pressure their pediatricians into giving antibiotics. Research shows that when a doctor perceives that a parent wanted an antibiotic for their child, they would be more likely to give a bacterial diagnosis versus viral and write a prescription for antibiotics even when unwarranted. Obviously this should not be happening but I think that pediatricians become tired of parents bullying them. In this day and age, everyone has doctor Google and believe that they know what is best. Please remember that no internet source is as good as an actual living breathing doctor. I think that the fact that we also have an "instant gratification" society also is contributing to the problem. No one wants to have to have patience and wait for their child to get better. They want results and they want results now. Also, no parent wants to feel helpless and antibiotics give them the feeling of accomplishment and that they are helping their child.
So this raises the question, "Are antibiotics effective for ear infections?" Let's look at the evidence. One double-blind study featured 171 children with ear infections divided into 4 groups based on severity. The first group received tubes in their ears, the second group received antibiotics, the third group a combination of antibiotics and surgery and the fourth group were a watch and wait group (ie. no drugs or surgery). The conclusion of the study? There was NO DIFFERENCE between the outcomes of any of the groups. That means that the children who received nothing did just as well as the children who were put through drugs and surgery! Their bodies fought the infection off naturally the way they were intended to.
Another study was performed on recovery from ear infections without surgery or antibiotics. The results showed that almost two thirds of children recovered within 24 hours of diagnosis and that over 80% had complete resolution of symptoms within 1-7 days. There are several other studies showing the same results and if you want the stats or reference just let me know in the comments but for now let's look at more antibiotic use studies. Did you know that children who receive antibiotics for ear infections and tonsillitis will likely have reoccurrence of the illness? One publication shows that children using antibiotics for earaches (or infections) suffered 2-6 times more recurrent infections than those who did not use antibiotics. Also, the use of antibiotics to treat strep throat resulted in 2-8 times more likely reoccurrence.
So this begs the question, “What can I do for my child’s ear infections?” There are a number of different ways to handle ear infections. Of course, my favorite method is chiropractic! By restoring nerve flow, the body can effectively fight off infection and also drain fluids away from the ear. Let’s look at the evidence. One 18 year study of 4600 cases of upper respiratory infections found that when there was a restriction in spinal motion (subluxation), ear infections occurred. When the spinal motion (and consequently, nerve function) was restored, further complications usually did not develop. The Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics studied 5 cases of chronic recurrent otitis media (ear infection). All of these patients had previously received medical attention for their ear infections. Yet the results were poor and the ear infections kept coming. Yet after CHIROPRACTIC care, all families reported excellent outcomes with no further recurrent ear infections.
Ok, one more! Bear with me! A study in The Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics researched the effectiveness of chiropractic for the treatment of ear infections. 46 children were involve age 5 and under. 93% of all cases improved with 75% in 10 days or less and 43% after only 1 or 2 adjustments. Dr. Joan Fallon who is a chiropractor and a researcher states is best as this, “Chiropractic care mobilizes drainage of the ear in children. If the ear continues to drain without a build up of fluid and subsequent infection, children will build up their own antibodies and recover quickly. Once they fight the infection themselves, children tend to do very well and stay away from ear infections completely. Unless there are environmental factors like smoking in the house, an abnormally shaped Eustachian tube, or something like that, they generally do very well.”
Of course there are other natural things you can do for your child in addition to chiropractic care. Most importantly, make sure your kiddo is getting lots of rest. Garlic oil in the ear can be helpful for the pain or breast milk! Keep your child’s ear dry (avoid swimming). Finally, avoid mucus producing foods like all dairy, bananas and soy products.