Everything You Need to Know About Ear Infections (That Your Doctor Won’t Tell You)
Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night with an alarming cry from your child? I know the frustrating and paralyzing feeling you get when you can’t figure out how to help them because childhood ear infections can make you feel that way.
Speaking of ear infections, are you tired of seeing your child suffer from the pain and discomfort of this much too common childhood condition?
Do you inevitably receive the standard doctor recommendation of “just another round of antibiotics” (which you’ve noticed seems to provide only short-term benefits, if any at all)? Maybe you are told, “She’ll grow out of it”, or “We may have to consider inserting ear tubes.” For so many reasons that just doesn’t sit right with you anymore.
I get it!
I have been there with my oldest daughter. I refused to have her put on the antibiotic “superhighway” that is such a knee-jerk reaction for far too many doctors. I was determined to find alternative remedies that were effective, safe, and provided real relief.
If this sounds all too familiar, I am here to help.
In today’s post I will cover everything you need to know about natural preventive practices for ear infections that your doctor won’t always tell you about (often because he doesn’t know of them). These can keep your child healthy without popping pills and taking drugs. There is so much misinformation to debunk and new information to share on this topic, that we’re breaking it into two posts:
- Post #1 – Today’s post will focus on facts and prevention.
- Post #2 – In next week’s post, I will share natural, drug-free tips and best practices proven to manage ear infections once they’ve already struck. Also, be sure to check out my Holistic Doctor Mama YouTube channel for techniques you can do to help drain the sinuses and ear canal.
What are Ear Infections and Why Are Children So Susceptible?
True ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses. They lodge in the air behind the eardrum (also called the middle ear), and as they grow, they block this channel. Temporary hearing loss, the drainage of fluid and pain are common symptoms.
The American Journal of Pediatrics tells us that recurring ear infections are more common in young children for a very simple reason.
Not all ear infections are actually infections; they are misdiagnosed.
Here’s why …
Children’s ear canals are not slanted downward like adults. They run straight across, horizontally. This makes it easier for fluid to get trapped in their ears because drainage is not as efficient.
This can cause fluid backup and pressure on the ear drum, which causes pain and swelling. This sometimes leads to an actual infection and that’s why children are so susceptible to earaches.
As a matter of fact, 5 out of every 6 children will have at least one ear infection before they turn 3 years of age. Some of these children suffer from recurring ear infections, and this problem often occurs in little ones before they are able to talk, so they cannot effectively tell you what they are going through.
A cultured swab is the only way to truly determine if a child has an infection, or if it’s just fluid build-up or redness due to an unrelated virus. It could be teething or some other non-ear-related issue growing children go through.
The problem is that many pediatricians will look inside the ear and see it’s red, then diagnose the infection and prescribe antibiotics without taking a swab. That’s a pretty big assumption to make considering all the issues with over-prescribing antibiotics, don’t you think?
As both a mother and a doctor, I certainly do.
Let’s take a look at some facts about ear infections taken straight from the medical field.
- In 2004, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) agreed on approval of the watch-and-wait strategy. This tells physicians it is OK to delay antibiotic use in children over 24 months for 48 to 72 hours. The AAP now approves the use of pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (I will have some natural options for you in next week’s post).
- The AAP also confirms that 80% of children whose ear infections are not treated immediately with antibiotics heal on their own.
- Another study published in the September 13 issue of The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) also shows that most ear infections disappear on their own if left untreated by antibiotics.
- A recent article from WebMD is titled, “Cutting Antibiotics for Ear Infections: Most Disappear on Their Own if Parents Can Wait, Study Shows”. The title of the article is almost amusing, as it puts the blame of antibiotic abuse in the hands of the parents as opposed to the pharmaceutical and allopathic industry.
- The overuse of antibiotics in children can cause diarrhea, allergic reactions, stained teeth, fever and a resistance to antibiotics.
“Dr. Jessica, Am I Crazy or Do Antibiotics Actually Make My Child More Susceptible to Ear Infections?”
I got this question all the time when I was in practice and still do with my clients. My answer is, you are NOT crazy … you are absolutely right.
Antibiotics are like a bacterial nuke. They kill all the bacteria in the body, good and bad. This takes care of the immediate problem effectively, but ultimately weakens immunity and opens the patient up to future infections.
Are antibiotics sometimes necessary and a blessing?
Yes! No doubt about it.
Thank goodness they do exist for emergencies. I would not hesitate to use antibiotics as a last resort if me or anyone in my family was in true danger. In fact, I am so grateful for them helping me heal when I was bed-ridden from spinal meningitis at 19.
But that’s the key. Use them only when other options have been exhausted and the child really needs them. Don’t make them a rubber stamp go-to treatment that is not correcting the root of the problem and can cause so many potential side-effects.
If you do need to use them, then focus intensely to rebuild your child’s natural defenses afterwards. So, how do you avoid giving your kids a one-way ticket on the runaway antibiotic freight train?
Prevention is the key!
13 Ways to Prevent Ear Infections and Support a Strong, Healthy Immune System
- Be Picky about Pillows
Because of their inner ear anatomy, children shouldn’t have a pillow until they ask for one, or if you notice them sleeping on their side often. At age 3 and older, the pillow should be no higher than the width of the edge of shoulder to the base of the neck (laterally), about 1 – 2 inches.
- Probiotic Supplements
Add a probiotic supplement and cultured foods such as raw yogurt, kefir, cultured vegetables, and kombucha.
- Immune-Boosting Supplement
Try a natural supplement that supports normal immunity. I recommend a whole food-based supplement called JuicePlus+.
- Increase Omega 3 fatty Acids
Omega 3s are natural anti-inflammatories and are often taken via supplements such as krill, fish, flax, or evening primrose oil. However, do your best to implement these foods into your family’s diet for Omega-3’s. They are found in foods such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, 100% grass-fed beef, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- Chiropractic Spinal Care
Schedule your child for regular chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy. A trained and skilled pediatric chiropractic physician helps swollen lymph nodes drain by balancing the muscles on both sides of the neck. When muscles are tight because of spinal misalignment, the lymph system becomes congested, producing swollen lymph nodes.
Pooled lymph fluid is like a stagnant pond that brews fungus, bacteria, viruses and parasites. We want the lymph to flow like a river, so the constant movement and circulation doesn’t allow immune challenges to manifest.
Get your kids out in the sun more frequently. The human body produces plenty of vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. Just 15 or 20 minutes of sunlight on 70% of your child’s skin can trigger the production of healthy vitamin D. I focus on vitamin D because just about every illness shows a vitamin D deficiency.
When you change your environment, you change your results.
Getting your kids out into the sunlight helps you and them use the body’s natural immune system-boosting formulas that can keep ear infections and other health problems at bay. If you are concerned about your child’s skin burning, be sure to use natural sunscreen that doesn’t have harmful chemicals.
- Get More Zinc
Zinc is necessary for a healthy immune system. Did you know zinc helps stimulate and regulate the development and activity of more than 100 different enzymes that keep you healthy?
Like vitamin D, many people are deficient in zinc. The best food sources include beef and lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, beans, and mushrooms. Zinc supplementation is best used in the presence of other minerals, such as a food-based multi-mineral. I like Pure from Evergreen.
- Limit Sugar
Eliminate or greatly reduce sugar intake. Nothing does a number on the immune system quite like sugar. Did you know a single teaspoon of sugar can paralyze your immune system for 6 hours? This also creates an acidic state where pathogens and other illness-causing agents thrive.
If you get too much sugar in your system you begin to create a build-up of mucus that congests so many of your body’s filtration systems. How much is too much? A single sugary drink can have more sugar than is recommended for your child’s entire daily intake. Just one drink!
- Pump up the Protein
Quality protein (wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry) can help stabilize blood sugar and keep the body strong. You also get healthy protein in some plant-based foods, like edamame, lentils, beans and chickpeas. Quinoa and wild rice, pistachios and almonds, brussels sprouts, avocado, broccoli, and asparagus are also protein-rich.
- Nix Caffeine and Other Stimulant
Kids can consume unhealthy amounts of caffeine if they eat chocolate and drink sodas or energy drinks. Caffeine weakens the adrenals, inhibits Vitamin D production in your body, and makes it harder for the body to heal.
- Cut Back And Preferably Remove All Forms of Dairy
Eliminate pasteurized dairy products. For many children, an undetected dairy allergy or sensitivity can cause inflammation. This leads to a build-up of mucus, clogged up organs of elimination, and decreased immunity.
If your child suffers from chronic ear infections or colds, try cutting out ALL dairy for a few weeks. Chances are their health will greatly improve. (Dairy products have been linked to other problematic health conditions in both children and adults.)
- Avoid Dyes, Artificial Preservatives, and Artificial Sweeteners
Toxic food additives disrupt the body’s communication systems and place a burden on the immune system and organs of detoxification. Read food labels and choose those with the fewest ingredients possible.
You should also stick to food with ingredients you understand. You understand what chicken breast is. When you read ingredients like broccoli or salmon, you know what you are getting. But what the heck are sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and butylated hydroxyanisole? If you don’t know what something is, don’t feed it to your child.
- Garlic Oil
Use garlic oil as a preventative measure. If your child begins to show early signs of an ear infection or if he has been exposed to other children who are sick, immediate administration of garlic oil into the ears can help prevent an infection.
Garlic and garlic/mullein oils are available in health food stores and online. (Even better, in next week’s post I will include a natural DIY recipe.)
Now That You’ve Got Prevention Covered, You’re Ready for the Next Step … Managing an Ear Infection Naturally
Doesn’t it feel good when you know you have the power to heal and strengthen your own children without always resorting to medical intervention? Wouldn’t it be great to give your child relief from the frustration and pain of ear infections without resorting to drugs, pills, and medicine?
That is exactly what I will show you how to do next week.
In next week’s post, we will review over a dozen clinically tested and mother-approved natural ways to manage an ear infection at home, without the use of antibiotics. This is what being a natural-minded mama and living your life holistically is all about: healing empowerment for families. I look forward to talking with you about it next week!
Was this post helpful to you? If so, please share with your friends and family. AND, if you would like some ideas on how to identify which foods could be contributing to your child’s immune system challenges then download my FREE Guide on 15 Kid-Foods to Never Feed Your Child Again.
Please comment below what natural ways you use to keep your kids safe from ear infections? What questions do you have about prevention?
Wishing you well!
Hi! I'm Dr. Jessica
I’m Dr. Jessica Payne, Medical Intuitive, Doctor of Natural Medicine, and your go-to guide for living your life naturally…More
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