Next to colds, earaches are the most commonly diagnosed childhood condition – as many a mom will attest! In fact, 3 out of 4 kids will have otitis media (middle ear infection or inflammation) by the time they’re 3 years old. It’s the #1 reason for visits to the children’s emergency department.
There are several reasons why young children develop ear infections (or inflammation) including:
• Children’s eustachian tubes are shorter, narrower, and lay more horizontally than an adult’s, so bacteria and viruses are able to travel to the middle ear more easily
• Their adenoids (lymphatic tissue that is part of the immune system) are large and situated close to the eustachian tubes; if they get enlarged, they can interfere with ability of eustachian tubes to open
• Exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke
• Bottle-feeding (angle of bottle may cause ‘back flow’ up the tubes)
• Multiple upper respiratory tract infections
• Mucus build-up from dairy ingestion. This often plays a significant role, so eliminating dairy products is essential as the excess mucous they create can further clog up the eustachian tubes.
Antibiotics may be warranted in some instances; however, middle ear infections usually go away on their own within 2 or 3 days, even without any specific treatment. Oft times a gentle, wholistic approach is suitable.
Some Natural Alternatives:
• Herbal ear drops. These are usually a combination of olive oil infused with mullein flowers, St. John’s wort flowers, and garlic. Gently warm the oil before putting 2-3 drops into the ear(s).
• A warmed compress placed over the affected ear can also provide soothing relief
• A dropperful (orally) of Echinacea every hour or two will help support your little one’s natural defenses
Breastfeeding provides ongoing immune support to your infant, and is one of the best defenses you can provide them. Frequent handwashing (parent & child) will also help to reduce the chance of infection.
If improvement isn’t noted within 2 to 3 days, and fever is present, it’s recommended to have your child evaluated by a doctor.