If you’re a parent in the United States, chances are, you have had a child who has suffered from ear infections. These affect 5 out of 6 U.S. children by the age of 3. Kids are more prone to ear infections due to their immature Eustachian tube (part of the middle ear) being shorter and angled. This allows bacteria to get into the middle ear more easily. Although ear infections most commonly affect children up to 6 years old, adults are also susceptible to these infections.
Causes and Symptoms of Ear Infections
Ear infections are caused by a bacteria or virus in the middle ear that causes painful inflammation and a build-up of fluids. Colds, flu, teething, and allergies can bring on an ear infection due to the congestion and swelling of nasal passages, throat and Eustachian tubes.
In young children, you might notice soreness, pain, and discomfort in the area surrounding the ear, often worsened when lying down.
Symptoms to look for in children
- Tugging or pulling at an ear
- Difficulty sleeping
- Crying more than usual
- Drainage of fluid from the ear
- Irritable/changes in mood
- Popping or ringing in the ear
- Rubbing the ear due to pressure buildup
- Difficulty hearing
- Balance problems, lack of coordination, and dizziness
Traditional treatments for ear infections
In most cases, the ‘wait and watch’ plan is effective because ear infections typically clear up on their own, meaning that low intervention is the best route to take. But many times, medical doctors will recommend antibiotics, ear wicking, or in advanced cases, surgically implanted tubes.
While there may be some cases that these measures become necessary, we are big believers in the body’s ability to heal itself and we encourage you to pursue methods that prioritize that as well. It is important to know that, as a parent, you have options available to you if you determine that you want to treat the ear infection naturally.
For children who have chronic ear infections, tubes are often recommended as a more permanent solution, but, as with any surgery, it is important to know that there are risks to implanting ear tubes. A study has shown that children treated with tubes experienced significant damage to their eardrums as well as poorer hearing years after being removed (1). Additional studies have shown that many children needlessly get tubes in their ears.
Risks associated with ear tube surgery:
- Hearing loss
- Scarring of the eardrum
- Allergic reaction to the tube material
- Stress from general anesthetic
One of the more common treatments from medical doctors will be for antibiotics. This is concerning for a few reasons:
- Antibiotics treat bacterial infections- meaning viral ear infections will be unaffected by antibiotics. A survey discovered that nearly two-thirds of health professionals have knowingly prescribed antibiotics when they weren’t absolutely necessary.
- Antibiotics reduce your body’s ability to fight off the infection on its own.
Your child will need to be swabbed to determine if the infection is viral or bacterial. If your child’s ear infection is bacterial, antibiotics may shorten the infection but this treatment course also poses the risk of diminishing your child’s natural immune response. This is because antibiotics kill off both helpful and harmful bacteria in the body. With the helpful bacteria being critical for immune function. Most ear infections, however, are viral and will not respond to antibiotics.
Risks associated with antibiotics:
- Adverse reactions (rash, diarrhea, trouble breathing, anaphylaxis, etc.)
- Antibiotic resistance leading to repeat infections
- Destruction of healthy bacteria at a critical time for intestinal development
- Strong association between early antibiotic use and development of childhood asthma
If you’re looking for an alternative to surgery and antibiotics, luckily, there is another option for your to consider!
How chiropractic can help ear infections
The purpose of chiropractic care is not the treatment of conditions or diseases; rather, it is the restoration of normal body function. All systems of the body depend on the optimal function of the nervous system. Therefore, chiropractic doesn’t treat the ear infection but addresses the underlying causes. In reality, your child’s body does all the healing; we just help to ensure proper function of the spine and communication with organs.
The culprit usually comes in the form of vertebral subluxations (or misalignments) that put pressure on the spinal column and inhibit the communication between the brain and the organs. Through specific, gentle movements, Dr. Lauren will work to remove these blockages to aid in the body’s natural process of healing itself. Without the interference, the ears are able to drain naturally without the need for surgery or dangerous drugs!