While ear infections can occur at any age, they are most common in early childhood and infancy. In fact, ear infections are the reason for more than half the visits to pediatricians in the United States. Statistics show that acute ear infections affect two-thirds of American children under the age of two, while chronic infections affect two-thirds of children under age six.
There are two main categories of ear infection. The first is an outer ear infection, also known as swimmer's ear or otitis externa. It affects the ear canal, which runs from the ear opening to the eardrum, and happens when a substance (usually, water-hence the nickname) enters the ear canal and is trapped there by a build-up of wax. In this stagnant condition, bacteria breed and flourish. The body responds to the infection with inflammation, redness, pain and sometimes a fever.
The second category called a middle-ear infection or otitis media, is much more common, especially in very young children and infants. Most ear infections are usually associated with an upper respiratory infection or allergy. Forty percent of cases involve bacterial infection, with the most common being Streptococcus pneumonia. Many ear infections involve a viral infection that is unresponsive to antibiotics. Chronic middle ear infections refer to chronic swelling of the eardrum as a result of fluid accumulation. One of the reasons infants are susceptible to ear infections is due to the fact that the Eustachian tube (which drains fluid from the middle ear) is more horizontal than it is in adults and does not drain as efficiently. This tube becomes more vertical and drains better as children get older. The key is to prevent the build-up of this fluid with a proper diet. Food allergens, such as cow's milk and sugar, trigger a cascade of inflammatory responses that often result in mucus and fluid. These foods are often the root problem. In addition, avoiding environmental allergens is important-particularly secondhand smoke. Addressing food allergies and environmental allergens is crucial so that "germs" do not have an environment to grow in. Of course, a healthy functioning immune system is also key to preventing infection.
Some infections are a result of a malfunctioning or still-developing Eustachian tube, the passage that connects the three bones of the middle ear to the nose and the throat. When the Eustachian tube isn't working properly, mucus isn't able to drain from behind the eardrum into the upper respiratory tract; instead, it remains trapped and causes pain and pressure. This situation often leads to infection, especially if there has already been a mucus-producing disease of the upper respiratory system, such as a cold or the flu.
Middle ear infections can be quite painful. There may be a fever, perhaps a very high one, with some hearing difficulty or nausea and vomiting. If your child pulls or slaps at his or her ear, an infection is a possibility. Take all ear infections and ear pain seriously. If you or your child experiences severe ear pain, followed by a sudden relief and/or discharge of blood or pus, consult a doctor immediately, even if you or the child feels well.
The over-prescribing of antibiotics fro childhood ear infections has been a contributing factor to antibiotic-resistance. In addition, they put your child at risk for Candida overgrowth.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements have shown to help Ear
Prescription for Natural
Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Super Prescription # 1 Garlic - LifeSource Product
Take 2,500 mg daily of aged odorless garlic. These herbs have antibacterial/ antiviral effects and natural pain-relieving qualities.
Super Prescription # 2 Echinacea and Goldenseal - LifeSource Products - See All of our Echinacea/Goldenseal Products.
Adults take 2 caps per day, and children 1 cap daily.
Super Prescription # 3 Vitamin C - LifeSource Products - See All of our Vitamin C Products.
Adults should take 1,000 mg three to four times daily and children 500 mg tree times daily.
Super Prescription # 4 Larix Dissolve 1 to 2 teaspoons in a formula bottle for bottle-feeding infants or mix in water for older children and give it four times daily.
Super Prescription # 5 Vitamin A – Beta Carotene - LifeSource Product (also found in all of our multivitamins for adults & kids)
Give 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily (up to five days) for children up to six years of age.
Super Prescription # 6 Omega 3, 6 9 - LifeSource Products - See All of our Omega 3 – Fish Oil Products.
Adults should take flax seed oil and or omega 3-fish oil daily, or a formulation that contains a mixture of omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. For children give a children's give smaller doses and consult their pediatrician as always.
Not all of the following symptoms need to be present for a diagnosis of ear infection.
- Pain, often throbbing
- Pressure or a feeling of fullness in the ear
- Pus from the ear
- Hearing difficulty in the affected ear
- Nausea and vomiting
- The buildup of wax, often the result of cleaning the ears with cotton swabs
- Upper respiratory infections
- Food allergies/sensitivities (especially overconsumption of dairy products)
- Environmental allergies (molds, dust, animal dander, and hay fever)
- Smoking or secondhand smoke, which irritates the Eustachian tube and cause inflammation behind the eardrum.
- Not being breastfed: Breastfeeding allows for the transport of immune factors from the mother to the child and matures the digestive tract so that the child is less susceptible to food allergies.
- Season: The incidence of earaches is highest in the winter. In northern climates, ear infections increase in frequency beginning in September.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome:
- More than 90 percent of children with fetal alcohol syndrome have problems with ear infections.
- Genetic: Nearly 60 percent of all children with Down's syndrome experience problems with otitis media.
- Nutritional deficiencies of vitamins A and C and essential fatty-acid imbalance.
- Injuries: Children who suffered trauma at birth (e.g. forceps delivery, vacuum extraction) and children with neck and head injuries are more susceptible (an indication for chiropractic, osteopathic, or craniosacral therapy).
These dietary suggestions will alleviate pain. More importantly, many of them will also prevent recurring infections. Significant changes in your child's diet may be necessary for optimal results.
A good diet based on whole grains, high-quality protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables will build up the immune system and discourage infection.
Drink plenty of water to thin mucous secretions.
Essential fatty acids, found in cold-water fish, flax seeds, and flaxseed oil, are useful in reducing the inflammation or the allergies that are often present.
Switch bottle-fed babies to a nondairy formula, with you doctor's supervision.
Breastfeeding mothers should avoid common allergens (e.g. cow's milk); in order to not pass the allergenic portion through the breast milk. Food testing can be done with the mother.
Foods to Avoid
Investigate the possibility of food allergies, especially to dairy, wheat, sugar, citrus fruits, soy, eggs, or chocolate.
If ear infections recur or are chronic, suspend consumption of dairy products indefinitely. For infants and young children who are bottle-fed replace the regular cow's milk formula with hypoallergenic/predigested formula.
Simple sugars suppress the immune system, so stay away from refined carbohydrates.
- Make sure not to bottle feed while children are lying on their backs. They should be at a 30-degree angle or more to prevent fluid accumulation in the Eustachian tube.
- Don't smoke or expose yourself or your children to secondhand smoke.
- Follow the old adage that says not to put anything into your ear that's smaller than your elbow. Cotton swabs pack wax into the ear canal.
- During the course of an infection, don't allow moisture into your ears. Put cotton gently in the outside of the ear while taking baths or showers or while washing your face. Don't go swimming until the infection is cleared.
- To reduce pain, apply heat locally. Try a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or blow a hairdryer onto the affected ear.
- Chiropractic, osteopathy, and craniosacral treatments can be very helpful for some children with structural and motion abnormalities of the upper neck vertebrae. These abnormalities can cause fluid to build up and not drain properly, providing a breeding ground for infections. Many parents have reported that these types of treatments helped to prevent further ear infections with their children. Specific treatments by a practitioner can correct these imbalances.