Fall is such a beautiful time of year; cozy sweaters, thanksgiving, and leaves turning colours. With the change in weather and change in routine, fall also tends to be a time when we see more colds and infections in the office.
It is estimated that 75% of children will experience an ear infection by the time they start school, most commonly occurring between the ages of 6-18 months. The Canadian Paediatric society recommends a watchful waiting approach for 48 hours for mild illness in otherwise healthy children older than 6 months. This is where naturopathic tools can come in handy to support recovery and prevent future infections.
The ear consists of three different parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Otitis media is the medical term for a middle ear infection. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the nose and throat, and is responsible for draining excess fluid. If the eustachian tube is not draining properly, that can lead to a build of of fluid and pressure in the middle ear, causing pain and sometime infection. Infant’s eustachian tubes are more horizontal than vertical, making them more difficult to drain. As children grow the eustachian tube starts to curve down so it is better able to drain.
Ear infections often develop after a cold or upper respiratory tract infection. Signs that your child might be experiencing an ear infection can range, some being more obvious than others. These might include irritability, fever, rubbing/pulling on the ears, crying, discharge from the ear, runny nose, refusing to nurse on one side.
The following are some physical exam you can expect your ND to do if your child is experiencing symptoms of an ear infection:
- Assessing lymph nodes
- External and Internal inspection of the ears
- Inspection of the nose and throat
Naturopathic treatment is focused on supporting the immune system, identifying the underlying cause, relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and fighting infection. The following are some possible options:
- Staying well hydrated
- Elimination of dairy from the diet. Dairy can thicken and increase mucus production, making it more difficult to drain from the ear.
- Removing allergies or sensitivities (food, environmental)
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids
- Omega 3’s
- Antimicrobial and/or immune supportive botanicals
- Elevate the head of the bed to support drainage
- Warm compress
- Onion poultice
- Analgesic ear drops
Although most cases resolve on their own with simple home care, it is important to seek immediate medical attention for the following signs of complications:
- Deterioration in well-being or no signs of improvement within 24 hours
- Fever, chills, dizziness, serious hearing loss
- Severe headache, stiff neck, lethargy
- Inflammation of surrounding tissues and/or displacement of the ear
- Tympanic membrane rupture (severe sharp pain followed by discharge from the ear)
Please consult with your naturopathic doctor regarding the best options for your child!