By Neepa Sevak
Otitis media is the most common viral or bacterial infection in infants and children that produces pus, fluid, and inflammation (swelling) in the area behind the eardrum (tympanic membrane) in the chamber called the middle ear. The Eustachian tubes, also called the auditory canals are tubes that connect the inner ear to the nose and throat, are not fully formed in children. As a result, fluid in the ear cannot drain properly into the nose as it does in adults. When the fluid builds up, it causes pressure, pain, and inflammation on the eardrum hence providing a good environment for bacteria to grow, resulting in an infection. Normally by age seven, the auditory canal becomes large enough to allow good drainage, and most children stop having ear infections at that age.
Types of Ear Infections
- Acute Otitis media: starts as inflammation of the middle ear with fluid and mucus trapped inside the ear, resulting into pain. It is often preceded by upper respiratory symptoms.
- Otitis media with effusion: begins as acute otitis media, but the collection of fluid and mucus continues in the ear for 6 weeks or longer after the infection is over. This occurs when the Eustachian tube is not functioning enough to ventilate the ear, this makes it harder for the ear to fight new infections. This fluid can also affect your child’s hearing.
- Chronic Otitis media: where the infection persists and can cause ongoing damage to the middle ear and eardrum. This is not as painful as acute otitis media, but it can last for longer and the infection can occur repeatedly. Chronic otitis media can also be caused by a condition called cholesteatoma, which is a benign growth of skin in the middle ear behind the eardrum.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
- Ear pain or a sensation of pressure in the ear
- Pulling or scratching at the ear in infants
- Irritability, fussiness
- Difficulty sleeping, feeding, hearing
- Loss of appetite
- Upper respiratory infections like runny or stuffy nose, cough
- Ear drainage – yellow, white or blood tinged draining from ear which is not earwax
- Hearing loss
- Rupture of eardrum
Common Risk Factors That Effects Susceptibility to Ear Infections
- Infants and young children are more likely to get ear infections than older children.
- Upper respiratory infections.
- Poor immune system.
- Children that spend more time in a daycare setting, where they are exposed to more bacteria.
- Children exposed to cigarette smoke.
- Babies who are bottle fed while they are lying down, as certain feeding position blocks the Eustachian tubes.
- Some medical conditions such as Down syndrome, cleft palate, and allergies are associated with frequent ear infections.
- Complications of ear infections are less common for acute infections. For an untreated chronic ear infections, the following complications may occur:
- An infection of the inner ear that causes dizziness and imbalance.
- An infection of the skull behind the ear.
- Scarring or thickening of the eardrum.
- Loss of feeling or movement in the face (facial paralysis).
- Problems with speech and language development. During the first three years when children have the most problems with otitis media, they are learning to speak and understand words. Children learn to do this by interacting with people around them. It may be harder to hear and understand speech if sound is muffled by fluid in the middle ear.
- Permanent hearing loss.
Homeopathic Approach to Ear Infections
Many homeopathic medicines are used to successfully eliminate recurrent otitis media. Like vaccines, homeopathic medicines can challenge the immune system and successfully prevent and treat various infections, leading to stronger and healthier individuals who do not get severely or recurrently ill. Another advantage of using homeopathic medicines in treating various conditions is that it can be prescribed even before a definitive diagnosis has been made. This is because homeopathic medicines are prescribed based on the totality of symptoms by looking at the person holistically, that is, mind, body and emotion together and hence laboratory work is not always required to find the correct medicine.
Antibiotics are only helpful in certain bacterial infections, and since viral diseases are particularly common amongst children, conventional medicine often offers little help. Homeopathy differs from conventional medicine in that it doesn't focus on treating ear infections as a separate problem but instead treats the child as a whole. This same child who has ear infections may also have other physical or emotional symptoms. They have a certain type of personality, certain likes and dislikes and many other things that make them a unique person. All of this information helps in choosing the right homeopathic remedy which matches the whole pattern of symptoms. This one right homeopathic remedy will help bring your child back into balance and allow their body to heal itself by strengthening the overall health of the child. Once the immune system is stimulated your child's health improves, the ear infections and other problems will permanently go away. Homeopathic treatment is also very safe, natural, provides no side effects and is also regulated by FDA.
- Along with homeopathic medicines some home precautions can help heal ear infections faster.
- Keep your child well hydrated
- Eliminate dairy foods which thicken and increase mucus, making it more difficult for an infected ear to drain.
- To promote drainage prop your child at a 30 degree angle, this will help reduce pain too.
- Apply cold or warm compresses, depending on what your child is comfortable with.
- Never use instruments or cotton tipped applicators to clean the ears.
- If your child has an ear infection, avoid taking him on airplanes as it will make him very uncomfortable. Air travel does not injure the ear or increase your child's risk of developing an ear infection, but the change of air pressure in the cabin on takeoff and landing can increase the pain.
- Breastfeeding helps to pass along immunities that prevent otitis media. Also, the position of the child when breastfeeding is better than the bottle-feeding position for Eustachian tube functions. If a child needs to be bottle-fed, holding the infant at a 30 degree angle rather than allowing the child to lie down with the bottle is best. This position allows fluid to drain directly into the middle ear.
- Reduce the risk for common cold.
- Limit exposure to large groups of children, especially if your child is an infant.
- Encourage children to wash their hands often.
- Enhancing the immune system by homeopathic medicines as children who are prone to recurring bouts of Otitis media may have deficiencies in their immune system.
- Gently massaging your child's ear can help keep the Eustachian tube open. Using gentle pressure, draw a line along the back of the ear and down the back of the jawbone. Gently push and release the flap of skin in front of the ear several times. You can also massage your child's ear by placing the fleshy part of your palm over your child's ear, and gently rotating the ear in all directions.
- Use an elimination diet to determine if food allergies are contributing to the problem e.g. Cow's milk, eggs, wheat, corn, citrus, soy, oranges, peanut butter and many more.
- If your child is subject to recurring ear infections, do not expose him/her to common irritating allergens such as pet dander, down comforters and pillows, carpets, draperies, and stuffed toys all collect dust and are possible offenders as well.
Hence, to relieve the symptoms of Otitis Media by promoting the immune system with the help of a safe, natural and effective treatment consider homeopathy.