Earaches are the number reason parents bring their children to the doctor. An earache develops when the tissue lining the middle ear, or Eustachian tube swells, preventing proper draining of fluid in the middle ear. As a result of this inflammation, fluid accumulation in the middle ear increases. This build up of fluid causes pressure on the eardrum.
Typical treatment for ear infections in today’s health care system is the use of antibiotics and Tympanostomy (ear tubes). The cost of medical and surgical treatment of ear infections has been estimated to be between three and four billion dollars annually.
After a thorough review of the literature it appears that the use of antibiotics and tympanostomy may not be the best course of treatment, especially when dealing with recurrent ear infections. When antibiotics are used at the beginning of an acute middle ear infection, the frequency of recurrent infections may be almost three times greater than if antibiotics are delayed or not used.1
Why would antibiotics not be effective? Let’s look at the proper, medical term for what most people refer to as an ear infection: the Latin, Otitis Media. If you breakdown this term you have “oto” meaning ear, “itis” meaning inflammation and “media” which means middle. So it appears as if this irritation is not an infection at all, rather it is an inflammation! This explains why up to 70 percent of children with middle ear “infection” who do not respond to antibiotics, because the middle ear fluid contains no harmful bacteria. 2
Tympanostomy, or insertion of tubes in the eardrum has become increasingly more popular in the management of recurrent or chronic ear infections. According to recent estimates, tympanostomy is performed on more than one million children each year3, costing an average of 800 to 1000 dollars per surgery. However, membrane scarring with membrane thickening has been found to occur in over 40 percent of children receiving tubes compared with zero percent in those not receiving tubes.4 It is also fairly common for children to reject the tubes prematurely as soon as 4-7 months after the surgery. Typically fluid will begin to accumulate in the middle ear after the rejection of the tubes. Up to 75 percent of the cases where the tubes have been rejected and fluid begins to accumulate, a second surgery is required to replace them.5
So if the cause of ear “infection” is typically not bacteria, what could be cause?
Many cases of chronic middle ear infection, even those with eardrum perforation, are due to allergy.6 In many children it is allergies that cause the chronic buildup of a viscous and mucous fluid in the middle ear. Cow’s milk and other dairy products prove to be the most common contributor to childhood ear infections. Ironically it is often the foods that children eat the most and crave that they are allergic too. Children appear to be at a higher risk of developing food allergies when they have not been breastfed and when they have used antibiotics, which have eradicated all the beneficial intestinal bacteria needed for proper digestive and immune function.
More and more parents are parents are beginning to look to chiropractors to complement their children’s health care. Chiropractic care is an extremely effective, non-evasive treatment for ear infections. In a study of 46 children with ear infections, aged 5 and under, chiropractic care showed a 93 percent improvement; 75 percent improvement was seen in 10 days or fewer and 43 percent with only one or two treatments. Consequently, those cases that got the quickest response reported no previous use of antibiotics.7
How can chiropractic care help your child with ear infections? During the birthing process, the cervical vertebrae can become misaligned, causing a disruption of nerve function that can impact the muscle attachments to the Eustachian tubes. This can lead to fluid build up in the middle ear due to the angle of the tubes. For those parents that have hesitation to bring their baby to receive a chiropractic adjustments, it is important to know that adjustments given to babies consist of a very light force thrust, often times it only requires a sustained contact to the appropriate vertebrae.
Because Otitis Media is indeed an inflammation, anti-inflammatory nutrients such as Omega 3 Fatty Acids can be extremely effective. The Omega 3 Plus helps to eliminate the inflammatory response of the Eustachian tubes, which allows for proper drainage of the middle ear. If you do choose to give your child an antibiotic, you must follow that up with giving them a good quality Ultrabiotic. Because antibiotics destroy the good bacterial lining of the intestines, the probiotic is needed to begin to rebuild the intestinal lining of good bacteria in order to maintain proper digestive and immune function.
Making the right decisions for the health of a child can be challenging. According to the available research it appears the following three step approach to ear infections is most effective:
1- Diet – eliminate dairy
2- Chiropractic – allow for proper nerve function allowing better fluid drainage
3- Supplementation – Omega 3 Fatty Acids will help to decrease inflammation
- Diamant, M.; diamant, B.; “Abuse and Timing of Use of Antibiotics in Acute Otitis Media,” Arch. Otolaryngol. 100:226-232, 1974.
- Skoner, D.P.; Stillwagon, P.K.; et al.; “Inflammatory Mediators in Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion,” Arch. Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. Vol. 114, 1131-1133, Oct., 1988.
- Barfold C.; Rosborg, J.; “Secretory Otitis Media: Long-term Observations After Treatment with Gromments,” Arch. Otolaryngol. 106:553, 1980.
- Brown, M.J.; Richards, S.H.; Ambegoaker, A.G.; “Grommets and Glue Ear: A Five Year Follow-Up of a Controlled Trial,” J. Roy. Soc. Med. Vol. 71:353-356, 1978.
- Kokko, E.; “Chronic Secretory Otitis Media in Children,” Acta. Otolaryngol. Suppl., 327, pp. 7-44, 1974.
- Pang, L.Q.; “The Importance of Allergy in Otolaryngology,” Clinical Ecology, Dickey L. (Ed.), Charles Thomas, Springfield, Illinois, p. 633, 1976.
- Froehle, R.M.; “Ear Infection: A Retrospective Study Examining Improvement from Chiropractic Care and Analyzing Influencing Factors,” J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 19 (3): 169-177 1996.