If you’ve ever been to the pediatrician after a night of your little one pulling at their ear in pain, the doctor likely took a quick look in their ears and declared, “I see red. That means infection! Time for antibiotics.”
Hold on a moment, how did the doctor know? Just by the color of the eardrum?
In fact, to truly diagnose an ear infection the doctor would have had to swab the ear and do a culture test. Without a culture, there’s really no way to know. The pain could be from fluid buildup or the result of teething, neither of which requires the gut flora disrupting effects of antibiotics (which, according to this study, increases your child’s risks of asthma, allergy, and obesity).
So before you go filling that antibiotics prescription, consider this …
According to Jim Bob Haggerton, D.C.:
… not all “ear infections” are actually infected ears, or even infections. Children’s Eustachian tubes (ear canals) are not slanted down like those of adults. Their canals are straight across or horizontal, making it hard for your baby to get much help from gravity to move the fluid from the lymph nodes and the ears into the throat and out of their body. The problem comes when fluid and congestion build up in the lymph nodes in the sides of the neck and throat and cannot be moved or flushed out of the child’s body. That fluid has to go somewhere, so if the fluid can’t go back down, then it will frequently back up into the child’s Eustachian tube, causing fluid pressure on the back of the ear drum. This pressure will cause swelling and irritation—pain—just like an infection, and if left unaddressed long enough can progress into an infection. The problem, though, is that most pediatricians are medicating the kids they see before they know whether or not they actually have an infection.
Of course, if your child has an extremely high fever, her face and head are on fire, and colorful pus is oozing from the ear its likely your child has an ear infection. Otherwise, even the American Academy of Pediatrics isn’t so quick to suggest antibiotics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the best approach for an ear infection is to “watch and wait.” They don’t even recommend routine antibiotics for this condition, and say that most heal at the same rate whether you take meds or simply wait and do nothing.
So what should you do if your child is exhibiting pain or discomfort in one or both ears? Dr. Haggerton suggests helping the body get rid of the fluid building up in the ear canal, naturally relieving any pain, and boosting the immune system through supplements and dietary changes.
Check out his article entitled Ear Infections in Kids: Natural Remedies to Ease Ear Pain and Enhance Function for the full list of suggestions.
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