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Did you know that by the age of seven practically all children will have suffered an ear infection? It’s the second most common childhood illness. Colds are the most common illness. Definitely a painful experience, and risky, too, if it isn’t taken care of quickly. Yet, some parents are not aware of child friendly alternatives for ear infection.
This usually means a visit to the family doctor and a prescription for amoxicillin or another antibiotic. Problem solved? Not necessarily.
Disclaimer ~ This article is for informational purposes and not meant to help you diagnose a medical condition. Always work with your healthcare professionals.
- 1 Avoid Antibiotics that Damage Guts | Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection
- 2 Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection
- 2.0.1 Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection: Home Remedies
- 2.0.2 Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection: Herbal and Essential Oils
Avoid Antibiotics that Damage Guts | Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection
Usually, an ear infection does not just magically appear. Rather, they tend to start with an upper respiratory infection. For many, a common cold leads to an ear infection. Children with structural interference from the shape of their Eustachian tubes have an increased risk of repeated infections.
If that cold was particularly nasty, your child may have had one round of antibiotics already. Now there is more pain added to the equation, which gets everyone’s attention. After a visit to the doctor, an additional antibiotic may be prescribed.
No one wants to risk damage to their child’s hearing, or more serious infections either. So the prescription is followed, and the symptoms go away within a few days.
But there are several problems with this story.
Not All Earaches are Infections
An earache isn’t necessarily due to infection.
It could actually be teething, allergies, or even an object stuck in the ear itself.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are thousands of misdiagnosed ear infections every year. Even with a correct diagnosis, antibiotics don’t help most cases of acute otitis media (AOM). Ear infections will nearly always get well on their own within a couple of days.
There have been numerous studies showing that the wait-and-see approach works very well in children. This is especially true for those over two years old, notes Dr. Allan Lieberthal, pediatrician and lead author of the AAP’s new guidelines for diagnosing ear infections.
Watching the child, treating the symptoms and waiting is a reasonable course of action.
Sometimes ear infections really do require treatment with antibiotics. But even then, there are unintended consequences.
What Happens When You Take Antibiotics
Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria. This is a very good thing when you have an infection. But these drugs don’t discriminate. The beneficial microbes that your child’s immune system depends on are also victims in this killing spree.
Physical damage is inflicted on the gut lining, literally leaving holes in immune protection. So the next time your child is exposed to infection or some other immune assault, they are much more likely to succumb.
Antibiotics are strong medicine. They often cause stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and sometimes allergic reactions or more serious issues.
Plus, there is the problem of increasing antibiotic resistance. All this antibiotic use is basically building stronger germs!
Given these facts, clinical studies, and observations, the AAP begin recommending in 2004 that more laid-back approach mentioned earlier.
Types of Ear Infections
There are two main types of ear infections.
Infection of the middle ear and eardrum (otitis media) is the more serious of the two. This is what is usually meant when your healthcare practitioner diagnoses an ear infection. An infection of the outer ear or the ear canal (otitis externa) is actually a skin infection, but it can cause a lot of ear pain and yucky discharge.
An infection of the outer ear or the ear canal (otitis externa) is actually a skin infection. Yet, it can cause a lot of ear pain and yucky discharge.
Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection
If you’re dealing with an earache, provide rest, fluids, and comfort. Some children will want to be cuddled, others are cranky because of the pain. Watch closely for 2-3 days before resorting to antibiotics.
Of course, preventing your child from getting sick in the first place is always the most desirable scenario, if it can be managed. But, there are other options to support their body in the healing process
Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection: Home Remedies
For external infections:
Gently clean out the discharge by soaking a piece of cotton in 1:1 vinegar and water solution, and placing it in the ear canal.
Make sure you can easily pull out the cotton later. Leave it in the ear for eight to twelve hours. Using a bulb syringe, rinse the ear with warm water and let it drain. Put a drop or two of the vinegar solution into the ear every eight hours or so.
For infections of the middle ear:
Some are for comfort, while others help the immune system to do its job more quickly.
Place a warm, moist towel over your child’s ear for about 10 to 15 minutes to help reduce pain.
If there doesn’t appear to be a ruptured eardrum, and there is no fluid draining from the ear, you might put a few soothing drops of slightly warmed olive or sesame oil into the ear. Herbally infused oil containing extracts of garlic, mullein, lavender, calendula, and St. John’s wort may provide even more comfort.
For Any Ear Pain:
Offer your child clear fluids. Swallowing can help open the Eustachian tubes and allow trapped fluid to drain into the throat.
Chicken broth is a well-known remedy for respiratory illness. Preferably homemade with a whole organic chicken, vegetables, herbs and garlic.
Breastfeeding is generally considered to be helpful for overall immune protection. While many wean by the start of the toddler years, I have seen toddlers who increase their nursing when sick.
Feed your baby semi-upright when nursing or bottle feeding. This helps to keep liquids from backing up into their Eustachian tubes.
Probiotic supplements are helpful for immunity. This is especially for children delivered by C-section or those who have taken antibiotics in the past. If your child likes it, feed them servings of probiotic rich yogurt. Look at the labels to make sure there are active cultures.
Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection: Herbal and Essential Oils
Homeopathy can be much more efficient than antibiotics in treating illness.
It has been shown in clinical studies that an herbal oil treatment can do a better job of reducing the pain and inflammation of AOM, and even how long the illness lasts, than the antibiotics that are generally given.
Melaleuca (Tea Tree) essential oil applied to the skin behind the ear (not inside the ear itself) acts as a natural antibiotic.
Depending on specific symptoms, a trained homeopath will generally recommend a combination of remedies including Aconite, Belladonna, Ferrum phos, Hepar sulph, Pulsatilla, Chamomilla, Mercurius, Calc carb, Silicia, or Kali bich for ear infection.
There are also commercial homeopathic drops designed to relieve earache, usually containing some combination of the above remedies. These are usually very quick to give real relief, for children or adults.
Some pediatricians recommend a drop or two of breastmilk in each ear to relieve the discomfort of infection. I spent many years working with breastfeeding women as a La Leche League Leader. Many of the moms use a bit of their milk to help heel infections.
The Chinese medicine formula Yin Chao, given by mouth, is said to improve immune, respiratory, and digestive functions. Your acupuncturist can get a children’s version for you. It’s also available online, no prescription needed.
Since an earache usually starts with an upper respiratory viral infection, use elderberry syrup if your child catches a cold or daily as a preventative during cold and flu season. Elderberries contain a natural chemical that disables viral infections.
Sometimes Antibiotics are Needed
If your child’s earache is accompanied by severe weakness, loss of alertness, severe headache, or stiffness of the neck, you should get medical care immediately.
Otherwise, plenty of TLC is just what the doctor ordered.
Have you tried alternative treatments for ear infections with your children?
Are you concerned about the damage antibiotics can cause to gut health?
References for Child Friendly Alternatives for Ear Infection :
Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, Stephen Cummings, MD, & Dana Ullman, MPH Tarcher/Putnam, 2004