by Meredith Edwards-Cornwall
Ear infections. Just the mention of it can inspire dread and fear in the hearts of many parents. And no wonder - ear infections are a very common ailment, with over 70% of children experiencing at least one before the age of two.
To properly understand ear infections, it's important to know what causes them. Most infections occur in the eustachian tube. These tubes allow secretions from the nose and throat to drain away; when blockages occur due to swelling or irritation, they become blocked with these secretions and a breeding ground for bacteria. Infants and young children have shorter eustachian tubes, and they are positioned horizontally, making it harder to drain easily. This may explain why babies and children are more prone to ear infections versus adults.
Most children are prescribed antibiotics by their physicians, but many researchers are starting to become concerned at the overuse of antibiotics creating more problems in the long run. The creation of "super bugs," or antibiotic resistant bacteria, and antibiotic allergies to name but a few. in fact, recent research performed in the Netherlands suggests that children prescribed antibiotics for the typical ear infection did not heal faster or better than those children given a placebo.
So what is a parent to do? Avoiding the antibiotic dance can be a difficult task when your child is suffering from a particularly bad infection. But many natural remedies can help ease the pain and boost the immune system without the long term negative effects of pharmaceutical remedies.
At the first sign of a problem, administer an echinacea and goldenseal herbal combination. Echinacea is antiviral, while goldenseal is a powerful antibiotic. Both help sooth irritated membranes while building up the natural immunity in the body.
To ease the pain, give several drops of warm oil in the ear. Traditionally "sweet oil" was used - this is simply almond oil sold under a different name. To speed healing, try olive oil warmed with a clove of garlic. Garlic is a highly regarded as an antibacterial as well, and the warm oil helps the eardrum membrane to relax, lessening the pain.
Many parents have also had good results with homeopathy. Children who have fevers and a red face, along with a throbbing earache should be given Belladonna 30x or 9c, two to three times daily for one day. Earaches with teething require Chamomilla - children with this type of earache are often crying and irritable. Use 12x, 30x, 6c, or 9c three times daily for up to two days.
It's helpful to keep your child well hydrated. Many experts recommend avoiding dairy products as it can increase mucus secretions, making it harder for the ear to properly drain. This does not include breast milk, as it is considered a clear fluid and extremely beneficial for ear problems.
Prevention is an important factor in fighting future ear infections. Multiple studies show that exposure to cigarette smoke is the highest risk factor for children's ear infections. Bottle feeding is also a large risk factor for ear infections, although the exact reason behind it is a bit unclear. Breast milk is the ideal food for an infant, and studies have shown that breastfed infants are less likely to suffer from ear infections versus bottle fed infants. Limit pacifer use too - the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that pacifier use after six months can contribute to ear infections. Some children have found relief by chiropractic or cranial-sacral work as well.