Ear Infections

By Dr. Joey Shulman D.C., RNCP

Acute otitis media (AOM), or an ear infection, is the most common complaint pediatricians face. It is estimated that by age six, 95% of children will suffer from at least one ear infection. In fact, in North America, 25 million children visit the doctor annually with an ear infection.

What is acute otitis media?
Acute otitis media is caused by an inflammation of the inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the nasal cavity and throat by a small tube called the eustachian tube. If the eustachian becomes blocked due to a cold, allergy or upper respiratory infection, fluid can build up behind the ear. When fluid builds up in the middle ear, an infection can develop. Children under the age of six are more likely than older children or adults to develop middle ear infections because their eustachian tubes are more horizontal, making drainage of fluids more difficult. Common signs and symptoms of ear infections are:
  • Crying and irritability
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Ear drainage
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Tugging on earlobe

    Ear infections should not be taken lightly as they are the most common cause of hearing loss in a child. If you suspect your child may be suffering from an ear infection, please consult your primary health care practitioner.

    Causes of AOM
    There are various causes that can predispose a child to AOM. It is critical to get to the root of the problem to prevent further occurrences. Food allergies are one of the most common causes of AOM in children. Of all the potentially allergic foods, dairy is the most common. A food allergy causes nasal congestion and congestion in the eustachian tubes. This buildup allows fluid to collect in the middle ear, which can lead to infection.

    If your child does experience ear infections and you suspect he or she may be allergic to dairy, remove all dairy products (milk, cheese, formula, etc.) from his or her diet for a minimum of one month. Substitute soy and rice milk products. Where breast-fed infants suffer from ear infections, it is important that the mother stop consuming dairy as it will be passed on to the child. Other clues that your child may be allergic to dairy are:
  • Constant runny nose
  • Constipation
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Eczema
  • Flushed face
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Spitting up

    While food allergies are the most common cause of ear infections, other causes include:
  • Bottle drinking while lying on the back
  • Formula feeding instead of breast-feeding
  • Second-hand smoke

    Treating AOM

    Antibiotics: In conventional medicine, antibiotics are the standard treatment for middle ear infections. Unfortunately, this treatment may not be as effective as once thought. If the infection is viral in origin, an antibiotic will have no effect. If the ear infection is bacterial, an antibiotic will wipe out the good bacteria along with the bad, leaving a childs immune system in a weakened state. Current research shows that overuse of antibiotics may even increase the likelihood of future ear infections. In addition, the indiscriminate use of antibiotics is creating antibiotics resistance or 'super bugs'.

    Natural approaches to ear infections

    Detecting and eliminating food allergies: Dairy is the primary cause of chronic ear infections. Other foods that may trigger a reaction are soy, wheat, citrus, chocolate and eggs. Eliminate the suspected food for a minimum of one month and see if your childs condition improves.

    Breast milk: Mothers milk jump-starts an infants immune system by providing protective antibodies. Research clearly shows that children who are breast fed experience fewer allergies, ear infections, rashes and diarrhea and have lower rates of hospital admissions.

    Supplements for ear infections

    Acidophilus: Acidophilus is the friendly bacteria that is integral to digestive health. Following a course of antibiotics, supplement your child with acidophilus for a minimum of 30 days. This supplement is available in powdered or capsule form.

    Fish oils: Fish oils contain omega-3 essential fatty acids that can help reduce the inflammation caused by AOM. Once inflammation has been reduced, pain will also start to subside.

    Vitamin C: Supplementing with vitamin C may help minimize the inflammation and swelling in the middle ear. Vitamin C is also one of the most powerful vitamins for boosting immunity and fighting off infection.

    Garlic: Garlic is one of natures most powerful antibiotics. In addition to adding fresh, crushed garlic to any meal, have your children supplement with garlic capsules if they are old enough to swallow capsules. For more information, please visit the Truestar healthy immunity supplement plan.

    Additional holistic approaches
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Decongestion by steaming and nasal clearing


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