EAR PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN
One of the most common ear problems seen in children is ear infections. At least 3 out of 4 children will have been diagnosed with an infection by their third birthday and the number one reason for visits to pediatricians. Ear infections are seen in adults but are not as common. Unfortunately, with recurrent ear infections, there is a risk of hearing impairment, which can slow development of speech and learning, hence addressing them is crucial.
SYMPTOMS OF EAR INFECTIONS
The most common cause of ear pain is a middle-ear infection, also known as otitis media. Young children between three months and three years are often plagued by this infection, though it can appear at any age. They often occur during the fall and the winter. Symptoms usually start quite suddenly with terrible pains in one ear, often accompanied by fever and some difficulty hearing Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are possible signals of ear infections of young children. Infants will cry and tug at the ear repeatedly and will refuse suck on the breast or bottle, as the pressure in the pharynx pulls on the tender eardrum. Tugging at the ear is a symptom of an outer-ear infection, also known as swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. In an outer-ear infection, the skin that covers the outer-ear canal becomes inflamed, discharging mucus and causing scaling, crusting, swelling and redness can be seen when looking into the ear canal.
In the later stages of an inner-ear infection, accumulated pus in the middle ear builds pressure and eventually breaks through the eardrum. Once the pressure is relieved and the discharge is allowed to spill out through the ear, the pain disappears abruptly. This rupture is normal course of events in ear infections. It is not normally cause for concern unless the discharge continues and prevents the eardrum from healing properly, which permanently affects hearing.
Infections sometimes spread to the inner ear, causing abscesses, meningitis or mastoiditis, an infection of a nearby bone just behind the ear. Mild symptoms often signal a blocked Eustachian tube. Short pains in the ear, a feeling of fullness and noises on swallowing are symptoms of colds or changes in air pressure.
CAUSES FOR EAR INFECTIONS
Middle-ear infections are most often brought on or followed by a cold or flu, or an upper respiratory tract infection, although they can appear on their own after exposure to a cold wind or water.
Infections are the result of viruses or bacteria entering the middle ear through a malfunctioning Eustachian tube. This is the canal that links the throat with the ear to provide an outlet for mucus and for equalizing pressure changes, while hindering sinus and throat infections from spreading to the ear, when the Eustachian tube traps mucus in the ear and allows germs to enter, a susceptibility exists. For this reason, head colds often precede ear infections and changes in air pressure can be a trigger.
Routine antibiotic use and placement of tubes in the ear to help ventilation do not prevent recurrences, or effect the length of illness; in fact, some studies suggest that routine antibiotic use actually increases the rate of recurring infections. While these drugs kill bacteria, they cause imbalances that effect the immune system.
THE NATUROPATHIC APROACH TO TREATING EAR INFECTIONS NATURALLY
Recurring ear infections, especially in children, are linked to a poor immune system and weakened resistance due to poor nutrition and allergies to certain foods – this is where naturopathic medicine can help significantly.
Naturopathic medicine helps to address the root cause of the ear infections as opposed to just treating the symptoms, which in turn helps reduce frequency and the duration of the infections and improve the immune system usually natural treatments, vitamins and supplements.
If your child is suffering from an ear infection or recurring infections, and you are interested in addressing and treating the root cause of the ear infections, please call the clinic to schedule a naturopathic consultation for your child.
Here are a few natural suggestions for ear infections to help your child at home if they have been diagnosed with an ear infection:
- Strengthen your child’s immune system to help fight an ear infection by giving them plenty of fresh, raw vegetables, drinking at least 6 glasses of liquid daily and avoiding sweet and processed foods. Raw fruit and vegetables can provide many nutrients, as well as enzymes, which boost the immune system and increase metabolism. Nutritional yeast and raw wheat germ as well as sunflower seeds provide zinc, a mineral particularly important for a strong immune system.
- If possible, please avoid wheat, eggs, fowl, dairy products and peanut butter during the duration of the ear infection. Almond milk is an excellent alternative to milk. Oatmeal porridge with water and almond milk, combined in a blender and strained, is also very good alternative to milk for small children and babies. Do not bottle-feed an infant lying on his or her back, as this can lead to regurgitation of the contents into the middle ear.
- External/Physical Therapies that may be helpful:
- Place a hot-water bottle, wrapped in a towel, on the aching ear.
- To draw heat from ear area, give hot foot baths to the child.
- Hot packs of mashed potatoes also help to retain the heat for a long time and help relieve the pain. Place a hot onion and garlic poultice on the back of the neck to relieve earache.
- Steam inhalations help relieve the pain and promote healing. For babies, place a bowl of hot water under the crib, and cover crib with a bedsheet. Check regularly.
- Sleep with head propped up to a relieve pressure on the eardrum and promote drainage.
- For relief of pain and inflammation, heat a fresh, crushed garlic clove in olive oil, leave overnight and strain, and put a drop of the warm oil into the effected ear.
- Apply eardrops only if the eardrums are undamaged.
Please talk to your naturopathic doctor or health care provider before starting on any therapies or suggestions. If you are interested in scheduling a naturopathic consult for your child, please email us at [email protected] or call us at 416 913 4325 (HEAL)
* DISCLAIMER: The information on this article is the property of Dr. Sushma Shah, Naturopathic Doctor, and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any diseases or promote any services or products mentioned on the website.