Find the Cause of Your Child's Ear Infection

Monday, December 20, 2010
In addition to knowing how to determine whether you child has an ear infection, you also can take steps to prevent them.

If your child is suffering from inner ear infections, you are not alone. Ear infections are the most common condition for which antibiotics are prescribed in the U.S. Between 84 percent and 93 percent of children have at least one episode by the time they are 1 year old, and the average toddler will have two to three infections per year.

Children are at greater risk for ear infections because their Eustachian tube — the tube responsible for draining the fluid from the inner ear — is shorter, narrower and more horizontal. When inflammation from microbes or allergies causes this tube to swell, the inner ear fills with fluid and creates a breeding ground for bacteria.

Well-known risk factors for developing frequent ear infections include:

  • Spending time in day care with four or more children
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke or pollution
  • Pacifier use
  • Teething
  • Underlying disease such as cleft palate and allergies
  • Children who are breastfed for less than three months

Parents can take these steps at home to help:

  • Contact Master Home Environmentalist for a free home evaluation and get tips on how to decrease your child's exposure to environmental allergens.
  • Make onion earmuffs. Gently heat an onion half and hold it over your child's ears. The volatile oils are anti-microbial and decrease inflammation, while the warmth is soothing to irritated ears.
  • Conscious food introduction can identify food allergies that increase inflammation.
  • Discontinue pacifier use or only allow your child to use a pacifier that has been thoroughly disinfected.

A naturopathic doctor can help. We can use herbs and physical medicine techniques such as cranial sacral therapy to help decrease inflammation and drain the fluid. We can also use nutrients such as zinc, bioflavonoids and omega-3 fatty acids to improve immunity and decrease allergies. In addition, we can coach your family through an elimination diet to isolate problematic foods.

Ear infections peak in the winter months, so this is a great time to make an appointment. Remember that children less than 3 years old, with three months or longer of continuous infection should be evaluated for hearing loss to prevent developmental delays.

— Hillary Roland, ND, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. Visit BastyrCenter.org for more information or call (206) 834-4100 to schedule an appointment.

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