Ear infections, also know as “otitis media”, are a common problem in infants and younger children. In fact, an ear infection is the number one reason for a parent to bring a child to the paediatrician, accounting for 35% of all visits. Ear infections occur when there is a build up of pus or fluid behind the ear drum due to a bacteria or a virus. This causes the ear drum to become red, inflamed and painful. This is of particular importance in children because their eustachian tube (the tube that connects the middle ear to the throat) is horizontal, rather than vertical like in the adult ear, making it harder for the pus, fluid, and bacteria to drain out.
Since infants and younger children are not yet able to talk, we need to look for symptoms to let us know that what they are experiencing might be an ear infection. Common symptoms of an ear infection might include a fever greater than 102 degrees F, crying, increased irritability, increased crying when lying down (due to increased pressure), difficulty sleeping, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
Sometimes an ear infection is suspected when teething is to blame. Internal teething starts around 3 months of age, and the first tooth can erupt at 6 months of age so it is important to differentiate discomfort due to teething from ear infections to avoid unnecessary antibiotics from the paediatrician. If your baby is drooling more than normal, that is a good sign that it is teething.
While some doctors might be quick to prescribe an antibiotic, a wait-and-watch approach is now recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics because antibiotics have not only been shown to be unsuccessful at treating ear infections, but also increase the risk for future ear infections. A common treatment for repeated ear infections is ear tube surgery which, in most cases, can be unnecessary and is unsuccessful in about 30% of cases.
Chiropractic care has been shown to be beneficial for children suffering from ear infections. A study published by the American Chiropractic Association found that 80% of children who were adjusted were free from ear infections during the course of their care and for at least 6 months after. Although chiropractic care is not a treatment for ear infections, chiropractic adjustments help restore normal body function so that the child is better able to fight off the bacteria and, at the same time, a chiropractic adjustment helps to drain the eustachian tube, alleviating some of the pressure in their ear.