Ear Infections: a Natural Approach


Nearly two-thirds of children with uncomplicated ear infections recover from pain and fever within 24 hours of diagnosis without antibiotic treatment. More than 80 percent recover within 1 to 7 days. More than 5 million cases of acute ear infections occur annually. Because of the high rate of antibiotics use in the U.S., it is important to note that in the Netherlands the rate of bacterial resistance is about 1 percent, compared with the U.S. average of around 25 percent.

When dealing with ear infections, the first things you want to do is to remove certain habits that can be the cause of the infection:

• Avoid pacifiers: Pacifier use has been found to cause recurrent ear infections, failure of breastfeeding, and dental deformities (Contemporary Nurse Journal, July-Aug 2004).

• Don’t drink milk! More than half of all children with ear infections will improve and have no further ear infections if they just stop drinking their milk. This is a real tragedy. According to Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D., "The most common culprit (that causes ear infections) is cow’s milk, in its natural form or as found in infant formula. It causes swelling of the mucous membranes, which interferes with the drainage of secretions through the eustachian tube. Eventually, infection results because of the accumulated secretion." It’s important to note that breastfeeding does reduce the chances of the child developing ear infections. The nutritional habits of the mother are the key! If a child being breastfed acquires an ear infection, the mother should eliminate dairy from her diet.

• Cut the sweets! Although the relationship between sugar and ear infections has not been adequately researched, the effect of sugar on the immune system is very well documented. Consumption of sugar, specifically white sugar, has been implicated in increasing one’s susceptibility to infections. This would include all candies, soda pop and baked goods with white sugar and white flour.

• When are tubes in the ears justified? "In all my years of practice I have never seen a case in which a punctured ear drum did not heal itself," Dr. Mendelsohn said. "The principle justification for the procedure (tympanostomy) is to prevent hearing loss, which is no justification at all. Controlled studies have shown that when both ears are infected, and a tube is inserted in only one of them, the outcome for both ears is almost identical. Meanwhile the procedure itself carries many risks and side-effects. Justified as a means of preventing hearing loss, tympanostomy can cause scarring and hardening of the eardrum, resulting in hearing loss."


• Don’t panic.

• Relieve the pain with a heating pad, two drop of warm olive oil (not hot) inserted in the ear canal, and the appropriate dose of acetaminophen if the pain becomes unbearable.

• Avoid ALL dairy products (anything with cow’s milk).

• Take 1-2 zinc lozenges per day

• Take 250-500mg of vitamin C per day

• Echinacea: find a children’s liquid Echinacea at your local health food store and take the dosage recommended on the bottle.

• Chiropractic adjustments have been shown in many studies to be of great benefit.

If the pain persists after 48 hours, see a doctor – not to treat the infection, if that’s what it proves to be, but to rule out the possibility of trauma or the presence of a foreign body. If your doctor examines your child and finds a viral or bacterial infection, question the need for antibiotic use. If the doctor finds a foreign body, let him remove it, but again question the need for antibiotic use.

If your child has chronic, recurrent middle ear infection, it is probably because of allergies or the antibiotics he was previously given. If your doctor recommends tympanostomy, don’t permit it without trying the recommendations listed above or obtaining a second opinion. This procedure has replaced tonsillectomy as the favorite of pediatricians, but there is no reliable scientific evidence that it will do any good, and there’s considerable evidence that it may cause further harm. In June 2004, a report was published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology that tube insertion in childhood was associated with persistent hearing loss in young adults of about 5 to 10 dB. No such hearing loss was detected in subjects who had ear infections and did not get tubes in the ears. Repeated insertions of tubes caused a greater deterioration of hearing than did a single insertion.

The recommendations above are for children 6 months to 1 year ranging from 20-30 pounds. If the child is older and/or heavier, you may increase the dosages according to body weight. If the child is younger than 6 months and is nursing or on a soy or dairy formula, more direct consulting may be needed. I routinely work with the mother by supplementing the child through the mother’s milk or working to create alternatives to the soy-based or dairy-based formulas.

Natural care for ear infections is a very effective way of dealing with this problem and to improve your child’s health, so reoccurrence is less likely.

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Dr. Shannon O'Keefe
Dr. Shannon O'Keefe is a graduate of Northwestern College of Chiropractic. She is certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine and is a practicing member of the American Chiropractic Association. She has 18 years experience in the Chiropractic and Functional Medicine field and has completed her Diplomat degree in Clinical Nutrition. An article she authored will be published in the April 2008 issue of Nutritional Perspectives: Journal on the Council of Nutrition of American Chiropractic Association for her research on bacterial and parasitic infections as it relates to disease. She co-owns and operates O'Keefe/Matz Chiropractic Clinic in St. Paul, specializing in treating patients with complex and challenging health issues including Depression, Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, cholesterol and heart disease, M.S., Autism, Allergies, Heavy Metal Toxicity and Skin disorders. Visit www.okeefechiropractic.com or call 651.292.8072. Copyright


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