Ear infections are extremely common in children.
In fact, 3 out of 4 will suffer from at least one ear infection by their third birthday.
It’s the most prevalent complaint that lands children at the doctor’s surgery, and the most common reason for prescribed antibiotics.
Yet the NHS website states that the routine use of antibiotics to treat middle ear infections is not recommended, as there is no evidence that they speed up the healing process.
This is because many ear infections are caused by viruses, which antibiotics are completely ineffective against.
One weekend my husband Dr A. was working and I was childcaring alone.
Our daughter was really small, and I was a very new mum. We’d had weeks of coughs, colds and sleepless nights. Having suffered with chronic ear infections throughout childhood, my first thought was that she had an infection.
Unsure of what to do, we ended up waiting several hours to see a doctor at a Sunday walk-in clinic to find out, to my surprise and relief, that her ear pulling, and grumpy disposition was simply a bad case of teething.
When your baby or toddler screams in excruciating pain and is unable to tell you what’s the matter, it’s easy to feel helpless.
Yet if I had the knowledge and experience I have now, I would have known that ear infections are almost completely preventable and easily remedied at home.
Firstly, how do you know your child has an ear infection if they can’t tell you?
Preceded by a cold
Ear infections almost always follow a cold. Watch out for a runny nose that turns yellow or green as a bacterial infection sets in.
and fussiness during the day and night could be a sign of pain, however it’s often difficult to tell the difference between teething and an ear infection.
Low grade fever (101-102F)
Fever most certainly indicates an illness of some kind but is not always present with an ear infection. Fighting Infections with the 3 F’s
Blood or pus draining out of the ear is a sure sign of an ear infection but will only show if the eardrum is ruptured. If you see blood or pus, contact your GP straight away.
Worsening of pain when lying flat
This could be a sign; however, the pain could be elsewhere, for example colic or reflux is often worse at night or when lying down.
Pulling on the ear
Small children cannot localise where pain is coming from, and like my baby girl, may do this when teething. Or they could simply be playing with or exploring their ear.
This may indicate a blocked ear in a baby, but could just be a sign that your toddler is developing selective hearing!
As you can see it’s all very confusing.
You can never be completely sure that your child has an ear infection unless you take a look right inside.
However, you can take preventative measures to make sure that your child does not get one to begin with, by following these simple steps.
1) Put on a woolly hat! Cold wind can quickly get to the ears and turn a cold into an earache. Keep heads and ears well covered on a cold winter’s day.
2) Don’t go swimming if your child has a cold, get them to blow their nose frequently, or/and use a nasal aspirator to clear mucus from the sinuses and prevent infections spreading to the ear.
3) Make sure the ears are completely dry after getting wet in the bath, shower or swimming pool by gently tipping your child’s head each way over a towel for a minute to allow water to drain.
4) Exposure to cigarette smoke can irritate the tiny Estuation tubes (that link the back of the nose to the ear drum) in a child and lead to an infection. It goes without saying – don’t smoke around children.
What can you do if you suspect an ear infection?
1) Apply a warm wash cloth, water bottle or heating pad on the ear – this helps with pain. You can massage little diluted lavender oil (1 drop in a tsp of olive oil) behind the ear to relieve pain.
2) Combine a few drops of garlic oil with a tsp of olive oil and warm it to body temperature. Using a dropper, drop a few drops into the infected ear and allow the child to rest their head to the side in order for the oil to penetrate. Repeat on the other side if necessary. WARNING – if you see any liquid or pus draining out of the ear, DO NOT PUT ANY DROPS INTO THE EAR.
3) Perform a gentle ear drainage massage to clear the ear and get rid of excess fluid.
4) Give Echinacea, a herb which medical research has shown to be safe and effective at boosting the immune system decreasing the frequency, duration and severity of common illnesses including ear infections. Here’s my favourite brand for babies over 6 months.
5) Offer pain relief when they really needed it – like at night, when symptoms are usually worst and your child (and you) needs some rest.
Do remember, that although extremely painful, an ear infection will usually clear up itself after 3 -7 days with no treatment whatsoever.
Chronic Ear Infections
As a child I suffered from numerous ear infections.
They were the most painful thing that I’ve ever experienced.
I had numerous courses of antibiotics, my ears drained and waxy build up syringed, but they kept returning.
Then when I was 18 I discovered I had a cow’s milk intolerance.
I haven’t had cow’s milk regularly now for over 25 years, and I have also never suffered with another ear infection (this revelation contributed to me losing over two stone in weight, clearing up my acne and eczema and inspiring me to train as a Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist – but that’s another story).
As well as avoiding dairy, part of my healing journey at that time involved being introduced to a hands on treatment called CranioSacral Therapy.
I was at Uni and suffering from headaches and neck tension.
I met this wonderful lady who has become a life long friend.
She detected tension in the jaw and neck area that she could trace back to my birth.
Without me saying anything, she could tell that I’d been delivered by forceps and suffered some subtle compression to the head. I had several months of adjustment before I was free from pain.
Why is this relevant to your child’s ear infections?
During labour the skull of your baby is squashed to fit through the birthing canal and especially in the case of an assisted birth (vontouse or forceps) may take time to recover shape.
Gentle adjustment to the skull and neck from a qualified therapist can relieve compression and improve middle ear drainage. This in turn can decrease the frequency of ear infections as the body is then able to clear mucus more efficiently.
Babies and young children respond very well to CranioSacral Therapy and usually only require a few treatments. Adults tend to need more sessions because their skull bones are more ridged.
I believe that every mum and baby should have a CranioSacral Therapy session soon after the birth.
Both my babies had one around day 5, and it certainly helped my pelvis realign after a long labour with my first.
If your child seems to get an ear infection every time they go swimming, you may prevent this by placing several drops of colloidal silver into the ear canal with a dropper. To kill infection and dry up the moisture. Benefits of Colloidal Silver
If, like me, your child has continuous ear infections I would consider an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk.
Research has shown a link between cow’s milk allergies and recurrent ear infections.
Finally, ……ALWAYS CONSIDER PROBIOTICS!!!!
If you’re child has had antibiotics for an ear infection (or at any time in life, including at birth) you MUST replace the lost good bacteria with a probiotic supplement or at least dietary measures to nurture a healthy gut.
The gut microbiome is so essential to our overall health and immune system it’s vital we look after it throughout life. Read more here – 5 Easy Ways to Better Gut Health
Does your child suffer with ear infections? Have you found any natural solutions or cures for your child’s ear infections? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave comments below.