Children's Ear Infections

Otitis Media in Babies and Children

Children's Ear Infections

Children’s ear infection, the all too common problem scientifically referred to otitis media. I truly believe that, in general, the immediate assumption that the children’s ear infection is bacterial, and the anti-biotic prescription of amoxicillin is all too common, and is not necessarily the way to go.

Let’s start with the most basic question. How do you really know that your child is suffering from a children’s ear infection? It seems that your child exhibits some symptoms of a cold and, if the child is old enough, starts to complain about ear pain. You go to the doctor and after looking in the child’s ear for what seems like less than a few seconds, the diagnosis of an ear infection is made. Generally, an antibiotic is prescribed and if this is one of the child’s first ear infections, amoxicillin is likely the antibiotic. Since amoxicillin is a broad spectrum antibiotic, it can kill a wide variety of bacteria.

Studies have shown that the majority of otitis media (children’s ear infection) cases are not of bacterial origin. Less than half of the otitis media cases have been shown to be bacterial in origin with 60% being either viral or sterile effusion (fluid that does not contain bacteria or viruses). The diagnosis of a true ear infection and the prescription for antibiotic should not be made lightly.

It is unfortunate that after the antibiotic has been prescribed, seldom is a probiotic (healthy gut bacteria) prescribed. The antibiotic kills off good and bad bacteria and healthy bacteria should be used to help restore normal flora. Parents have commented that if their child is prescribed an antibiotic early on in the winter season, their immune function seems to be weaker for the rest of the year and they catch everything that comes along. Also, children who have a history multiple antibiotic uses and no probiotic uses tend to have a higher incidence of GI issues and food allergies later in life.

I would like to discuss options that may help you avoid children’s ear infections, and natural remedies that may help alleviate some of the symptoms. Acute ear infections affect 2/3 of American children by two years of age and chronic ear infections affect 2/3 of children under the age of six. Understanding the common causes could lead to avoidance and over all a healthier child.

The primary risk factors for otitis media are day care attendance, wood burning stoves, parental smoking and not being breast fed. The underlying commonalities are things that lead to abnormal Eustachian tube function. Obstruction of the Eustachian tube leads first to fluid buildup and then, if bacteria start to grow, bacterial infection. Obstruction results from collapse of the tube, blockage with mucus in response to allergy or irritation, or infection.

The role of allergy as the major source of chronic otitis media has been firmly established in the medical literature. The allergic reaction causes blockage of the Eustachian tube by swelling of the tube. It is the opinion of many medical practitioners that one of the most common foods that causes problems such as children’s ear infections, is cow’s milk. Recurrent ear infections are strongly associated with bottle feeding, and giving the child cow’s milk or a dairy based formula compounds the situation. Other offending foods include wheat, peanuts, egg whites, corn and soy. Because each child is different, laboratory tests can be performed to identify the offending allergen for your unique child.
More Information on Food Allergies

To decrease children’s ear infections, their diet should also eliminate concentrated simple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey, dried fruit and concentrated fruit juice.

Measures should also be taken to boost immune function. Supplementing the diet with a good child’s multiple vitamin and mineral formula is a good start because a deficiency of any number of essential nutrients increases the likelihood of infection. Supplementing with healthy fats in the form of DHA, EPA and GLA can be helpful in reducing the amount of inflammation throughout the body and in the Eustachian tube in particular. Look for a quality formula specifically designed for children and infants.

Since an ear infection can be quite serious, it is necessary that any individual with symptoms of an acute ear infection be seen by a doctor. Children who have been suffering with chronic otitis media should be seen by a qualified practitioner to determine the cause of the weak immune function and possible allergies. The idea is to prevent future cases and to improve immune function.

The conventional treatment of chronic otitis media is often through the use of antibiotics and, when this approach fails, the insertion of tubes. Parents need to be proactive and seek out causes and understand that prevention is the best way to deal with children’s ear infections and assure a healthy childhood.

Boosting Your Kids Immune System

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