Ear infections are one of the most common problems seen by pediatricians & surprisingly, a lot of parents are seeking chiropractic care to help with their kids ear infections also.
With over 10 million new cases every year in N.A., ear infections (otitis media) are the most common illness affecting infants & young children, & the number one reason for visits to a pediatrician.[flashvideo file=http://lifechiropractic.s3.amazonaws.com/20.09.2011.ear.infection.brad-1.mp4 image=https://lifechiropracticcentre.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/20.09.2011.ear_.infections.jpg width=500 height=299 /]
These account for more than 35% of all pediatric visits as almost half of all children will have at least one middle ear infection during their first year, and by age 3 over two-thirds of all children will have had at least one middle ear infection.
Symptoms include ear pain, fever, irritability and possible dizziness in older children.
Parents should also keep an eye out for other less noticeable signs such as poor appetite, reduced activity levels, crying, shaking of the head & pulling on the ear. Occasionally, the pressure in the middle ear will build to a point where the eardrum ruptures,resulting in pus & blood drainage from the ear.
Even though this sounds awful, the child will generally feel better afterwards.
The tear in the eardrum will allow the fluid to drain & the hole usually heals within a few days. Ear infections can be either viral or bacterial in origin and can frequently result from other illnesses.
For many kids, it can become a chronic problem requiring treatment year after year putting the child at risk of permanent hearing damage & associated speech &/or developmental problems.
Frequent ear infections are the second most common reason for surgery in kids under the age of 2. In severe cases when fluids from an ear infection have not cleared for several months and the ability to hear has been affected, specialists often times prescribe ear tubes.
The surgery involves making a small opening in the ear drum to put a tube inside.
The tube relieves the pressure in the ear & prevents repeated fluid build-up.
In most cases, the ear drum pushes the tube out after a few months & the hole in the eardrum closes.
In 20-30% of cases, this procedure has to be repeated. And, this surgery requires a general anesthetic which is never a minor thing in a small child.
If the problem persists even after tubes ( 1 or more trials ), then often time another surgery is recommended which is removal of the adenoids.
Standard treatment for most cases of otitis media however is with anti-biotics.
These may be effective in providing symptomatic relief only if the culprit is a bacterial infection as anti-biotics do nothing to fight off viruses.
But many research studies caution that ant-biotics are not much more effective that the body’s own immune system.
Repeated doses of anti-biotics can lead to drug resistant bacteria that are unaffected by the drugs while leaving the child screaming in pain.
Research over the last 8 years has shown that anti-biotics make very little difference in the recovery from an ear infection.
Yet, anti-biotics are regularly prescribed for children with ear infections.
From the perspective of the whole person, giving drugs to block and suppress an illness can push the illness deeper into the body.
One reason for recurrent infections may likely be the medications the child was given to treat the first infection.
These include decongestants, aspirin, tylenol and other drugs.
Anti-inflammatory drugs block the formation of some chemicals that promote inflammation but they also block chemicals that naturally prevent inflammation as well as trigger the release of substances that make inflammation worse.
Ear infections are rarely an emergency and usually do get better without anti-biotic treatment.
Again; fever, listlessness & stiffness in the neck ( in older children ) are signs that every parent should watch for.
Causes of ear infections can be a complex, multifaceted problem.
Otitis media ( inflammation of the middle ear ) is commonly referred to as ear infection, even though many times there may be no actual infection.
Mechanical obstruction: biomechanical obstruction of the Eustachian tube ( a tube which drains the middle ear into the throat ) can contribute to ear problems.
This blockage can arise from problems of the structural problems around the ear and Eustachian tube which include the bones of the jaw, skull & neck. The head is made up of many bones that are supposed to move gently in concert with one another.
The movement of these bones allows for the proper movement of the fluids in the head, including the fluids connecting between the sinuses, Eustachian tubes & ears.
Many things can change the proper movement of the bones in the head including falls, recurrent infections, and the trauma of birth especially if the vacuum assist &/or forceps were used for delivery.
Misalignment (subluxation) of the first vertebra in the neck ( the atlas ), & misalignment of the TMJ ( jaw joint ) can also result from falls, infections & birth trauma.
These too can impair the movement of fluid in the middle ear.
Since an ear infection contains the fluid that accumulates behind the ear drum, gentle movement of the bones of the head, neck or jaw will stimulate drainage of the fluid & prevent or cure such an infection.
Nutritional deficiency: it is important to consider nutrition in the treatment & prevention of ear infections.
An organic, unprocessed ,whole foods diet low in sugar is essential for establishing good health & strong immunity.
Depending upon the type, dietary fats can either enhance or impair immune function.
Bad fats (hydrogenated oils found in deep fried foods, baked goods & margarine, and saturated fats found in meat & dairy) can predispose a child (anyone for that matter) to recurrent infections & inflammatory conditions.
The good fats (essential fatty acids found in flax oil, borage seed oil, fish oil & evening primrose oil) are essential to normal immune & nerve system function.
Fatty acid deficiency also contributes to ADD & ADHD and other learning disorders.
This should be started ideally while the mother is pregnant & during breast feeding.
One to two teaspoons per day of flax oil may be all the child needs but this will depend on age.
Deficiency of certain vitamins & minerals can weaken a child’s immunity.
As with adults, many children do not get enough of these to keep their immune systems strong.
A good multi-vitamin & mineral supplement is always a good idea.
Vitamin C is very important for immune function & 250 to 500 mg per day is recommended depending on age.
Vitamin A deficiency in animal studies has been shown to lead to ear infections & zinc is also important for proper immune function.
Echinacea has also been shown to help prevent ear infections ( child size dosages).
Supplementing the diet with intestinal bacteria is important for healthy immunity, especially if the child has had anti-biotics.
L.acidophulus for kids over 7 & B.bifidus for kids under 7.
Breastfeeding is also essential to a child’s immunity.
Breast milk contains all the immune protecting complexes a child would need.
And, the sucking action helps the Eustachian tubes to open & close which makes a difference in the frequency that a child is likely to get ear infections.
The child should not lie down on his/her back to drink a bottle or feed.
This is more likely to push fluids into the Eustachian tube & cause ear problems.
Allergy: Dr M.Schmidt in Childhood Ear Infections presents over 16 scientific studies that show that often times chronic ear infections are due to food or airborne allergies or hypersensitivity reactions.
These can cause significant pressure changes in the middle ear as well as obstruction of the Eustachian tube.
The most common allergens shown to cause ear infections are cow’s milk, dairy products, wheat,eggs, chocolate, citrus, corn, soy, peanuts, shellfish, sugar & yeast.
Dairy is the number one contributor to childhood ear problems .
And giving a candy sucker to comfort a sick kid who has an ear infection is like adding fuel to the fire.
Infection: if immune function is weak for any reason, bacteria or viruses from the nose or throat can find their way into the middle ear & contribute to an infection.
When these germs multiply, pus builds up behind the eardrum increasing the pressure which leads to swelling & pain.
Often times a common cold with a runny nose &/or cough precedes the ear infection.
The Chiropractic Approach: before yet another round of ‘maybe they will work, or maybe they won’t ‘ antibiotics or the drastic step of surgery, more & more parents are considering chiropractic to help their kids with ear infections.
Dr Joan Fallon, a fellow chiropractor published a research paper showing that nearly 80% of children treated with chiropractic adjustments were free & clear of ear infections for at least the 6 month period after their initial visits.
She explains … “ Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies (immunity) and recover more quickly.”
Another study reported in the Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health – Chiropractic, describes a child with longstanding health problems ( ear infections, sinus infections, headaches & neck pain ) related to the loss of the normal curve in the neck.
Following introduction of chiropractic care to restore this neck curve, her illnesses resolved.
“Numerous case studies & some clinical studies are revealing that there is a relationship between abnormalities in the spine, the nerve system & the various problems related to ear infections” says Dr C. Fedorchuck, lead author of the paper. “These types of structural problems where the child does not have a normal curve in the neck can cause a host of problems like those found in this young girl. Nerves supplying muscles in the neck and head are affected, as are the lymphatics and the tubes draining the middle ear. By removing the structural imbalance chiropractic helps these fluids drain, and improves nerve supply & range of motion.”
I can concur with these research findings.
After 25 years of family practice, the biggest benefit I see in kids who get regular chiropractic care (and adults for that matter) is better immunity.
And when kids have better immunity, they are not only more resistant to ear infections but they will not be one of those kids who ‘catches everything that is going around.’
We will also counsel our patients on positive lifestyle changes if need be ( diet, nutritionals & exercise ) as sometimes these need to be addressed as well.
If your child/children are struggling with ear infections & you’ve had enough with the anti-biotics, and you do not want them to have ear tubes, give chiropractic a try.
In most cases, you will be pleasantly surprised. Remember, there is never any charge to come in and talk to us & we are here to help in any way that we can.