An ear infection in a baby or child can occur in the outer ear (Otitis Externa) or the middle ear (Otitis Media ). An ear infection in the middle ear is fluid and swelling in the middle ear.
How Do I Know If My Baby Or Child Has An Ear Infection ?
Your child may experience the following:
- Irritability and unsettled behaviour
- Usually they have a fever
- They may pull at their ears or stick their fingers inside their ears.
- Often ear infections follow a cold or upper respiratory tract infection.
Is An Ear Infection Common In A Baby or Child?
Outer ear infections are found in all age groups but are more common in children 7 to 12 years of age (1).
A middle ear infection (Otitis Media) is the second most common disease of childhood. Two thirds of children have at least one episode by 3 years age. 50% of children have two or more episodes. It is most common during the winter months as many episodes are associated with an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold (2).
Why Are Ear Infections More Common In A Baby Or Child?
Middle ear infections are more common in babies and children under the age of 7. This is due to the tube that normally drains and ventilates the middle ear (Eustachian tube) being shorter, narrower and more horizontal than in adults, and therefore more likely to get blocked. If this tube is not working properly or blockage occurs, pressure builds up in the middle ear, encouraging swelling. This fluid can contain bacteria and or viruses and become infected.
Why Do Ear Infections Occur In A Baby Or Child ?
Outer ear infections may occur after lots of swimming (swimmers ear) as the protective wax in the ear canal is washed away, exposing the skin to moisture.
Inner ear infections may be caused by the tube that drains your ear to your throat (eustachian tube) not working properly. This may cause fluid to accumulate in the tube paving way for viruses and bacteria. Eustachian tube dysfunction may occur from having a common cold, allergies, obstructive adenoids, deep water diving or flying. Some people are born with Eustachian tube dysfunction or it can be damaged as a result of the birth process (3).
Babies born with cranial bone distortion (cleft palate) are more prone to tube dysfunction and ear infections (4).
Will An Inner Ear Infection Resolve Naturally In A Baby Or Child ?
In approximately 80% of cases an inner ear infection will resolve after 2-7 days without the use of antibiotics(5) .
How Best To Treat An Inner Ear Infection In A Baby Or Child?
Current medical guidelines for an inner ear infection is to monitor and use pain relief in the hope that 80% of inner ear infections will resolve naturally with 3 days. Antibiotics are not recommended to treat an inner ear infection in children aged 2-12 years old, except in a child with high fever, vomiting or lethargy (5).
Chiropractic Theory For Inner Ear Infections In A Baby Or Child?
There are 4 muscles involved in the function of the Eustachian Tube (Levator veli palatini,Salpingopharyngeus,Tensor tympani,Tensor veli palatini) which attach to bones of the skull (sphnoid or temporal) and are innervated by the vagus or trigeminal nerve. Dysfunction of either the cranial bones and or function of these nerves may result in the eustachian tube not working and draining properly.
The Fibrocartilaginous portion of the Eustachian tube entering the nose and throat (nasopharynx) is attached to the skull base in a groove between the temporal bone (petrous part) and the sphenoid (greater wing) . The Eustachian tube is closed at rest and opens only on swallowing, yawning and focefully inflation. Dysfunction of the sphenoid or temporal bones may cause dysfunction of the Eustachian tube leading to a build up of mucous and subsequent infection.
Correction of cranial bone dysfunction may allow fluid to drain via the Eustachian tube from the middle ear, helping prevent re-infection. A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (2003;157:861–6) showed cranial bone correction reducing the frequency of infections.
Many years ago German paediatricians, who use chiropractic techniques to treat middle ear problems, found dysfunction of the upper cervical spine as the primary cause of middle ear fluid build up and subsequent infection (6).
Although case studies have demonstrated babies and children’s inner ear infections improving following chiropractic treatment(7,8) , the research is either considered bias or not of scientific standard. More research is needed.
Natural Remedies For Ear Infections In A Baby Or Child
These remedies can be tried whilst waiting for the ear infection to clear naturally.
Acute Ear Infections: Can use individually or in combination.
- Chiropractic correction of any cervical spine, Temporal or Sphnoid bone misalignments .
2. Drops of oil and garlic into the ear. Take 1-2 tablespoons of cold-pressed olive oil and mix in a cup with a crushed clove of Garlic. Leave it for 30 min, strain oil through a sieve. With the sieved oil, warm to room temperature by standing the cup with the oil in a dish of warm water. Add 1 teaspoon of tee tree oil for extra potency. Use 4 drops every hour. Make fresh every day. Do not use in cases of pus oosing from the ear (perforations).
3. Mix 1 tablespoon of warm water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Warm to room temperature then use 4-5 drops inside the ear 3 x day.
4. Cover ears with a beanie to keep warm
5. Use herbal teas such as chamomile, calendula, marjoram, eucalyptus and thyme – all have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties
6. Onion remedy: Chop a white onion finely and wrap it in a piece of cotton cloth. Put it in a microwave or oven and warm it to a tolerable heat. Put it on the infected ear and secure it using a hat or beanie. You can use a piece of glad wrap between the onion wrap and the hat, so the onion juice does not soak the hat. Keep it on the ear until it cools down. Warm it up again and repeat the procedure. After the procedure, keep the warm hat on your child and let them go to sleep on the side of the affected ear to keep it warm.
Chronic Reoccurring Ear Infections:
1. Diet: Identify any intolerances and eliminate these (commonly wheat, diary, porriage, peanut butter).
2. Supplements: Improve the immune system
Use probiotics directly in the mouth
Meta Zinc with Vitamin C
Cod Liver Oil
(6). Gutman G. German Manuelle Medizin (1987) 25:5-10.
(7) Froehle RM. Ear infections: a retrospective study examining improvement from chiropractic care and analyzing for influencing factors.