Ear Infections and Glue Ear

In Australia 83% of children will have an ear infection (otitis media) before they are three years old.
Children who have repeated attacks of otitis media can develop glue ear, speech, hearing, concentration and behavioural problems. Research suggests that children who have had more than two ear infections before the age of five years are at an increased risk of behavioural problems up to and beyond ten years of age.
In Australia otitis media is the most common reason antibiotics are prescribed for children, and the most common reason for seeing a doctor.
While it is commonly thought that paracetamol, antibiotics or surgery are the only possibilities for the effective treatment recurrent ear infections, many parents find good management and prevention of their children's ear problems using homeopathic medicines.

Here’s some more information for you to have a look at:

Ear infections usually develop after colds, teething, tonsillitis and from exposure to cold, windy weather. Sometimes the symptoms are few, but more often a child has irritability, pain and fever – more commonly at nighttime. Changes in the appearance of the eardrum show if there is an ear infection present.

If a child has an ear infection, it means that the middle ear has filled with fluid, which can then become infected. This fluid can’t escape because of a blocked eustachian tube. (The tube connecting the middle ear and the nose – you can hear it pop when you swallow) The building of pressure causes the pain.
If there is a discharge from the ear it means the eardrum has ruptured. This is nature’s way of releasing the infected fluid. The hole in the eardrum usually heals within one week and causes no lasting problem. Repeated ruptures though, can cause damage to the eardrum.

A course of antibiotics is the standard medical treatment for an ear infection. When ear infections recur, more courses of antibiotics can be needed to treat just one ear infection. Inserting grommets ear tubes can help to prevent recurring ear infections. It is at this point, when parents consider other options.

Research indicates that antibiotics do not reduce the frequency of attacks of otitis media, and can cause side effects of vomiting, diarrhoea and rashes. Repeated courses of antibiotics can weaken immunity due to their effect on the bowel, leading to an ongoing cycle of ear infections and courses of antibiotics. It may sound strange, but around ¾ of immune function relies on a healthy gut.

In glue ear, fluid has gathered in the middle ear and become sticky and glue-like. Glue ear is usually only diagnosed once it is well established. The child shouts, doesn’t respond to normal speech, has poor attention and needs the television turned up loudly. Diagnosis is best confirmed with a hearing test.

When a child has glue ear, he/she can be irritable and moody. The child may pay little attention when spoken to, which in today’s world, can easily be mistaken for a behavioural problem. If the child is unable to hear their teacher or caretaker, they can have poor concentration and become frustrated. Children feel left out of games with others if they can't hear what is being said.

Surgery for glue ear which has lasted for more than six months involves inserting grommets, which allow air into the middle ear, to compensate for the blocked eustachian tube. It means the child can hear again and can also prevent repeated ear infections.

In children over three years, once speech has developed, the benefit of grommets may not be as great as commonly thought. Some Australian researchers have said that infant ear surgery is a fad, as many operations provide no change in outcome for the child.

Parents who want to avoid antibiotics and surgery do have other options to deal with problem ears. These children often have other health issues, and can be quite run down after the rounds of infections and antibiotics. Natural treatment therefore focuses on improving the general health of the child. Observing the health pattern that leads up to an ear infection allows early treatment to stop ear infections from developing.

After a child’s nutritional status has been checked, we use homoeopathic medicines to drain and dissolve fluid from the middle ear. If needed, medicines are also given to increase the child's resistance to coughs, colds and tonsillitis. Fever, pain and infection are treated with individually prescribed medicines.
Homeopathic medicines are lower risk than antibiotics, painkillers and surgery – especially for children. Studies show that both antibiotics and paracetamol given to young children increase the incidence of allergies.

In acute pain and fever, the correctly prescribed medicine can relieve pain and reduce fever in a distressed child within an hour or two. In more chronic cases, treatment for a month or two may be necessary to see significant improvement in the child’s ears and overall health. Glue ear may take at least three months to resolve.

Homeopathic medicines are pleasant tasting drops, or sugar pills, which are easy to give to babies and young children. Children love their drops and often want more medicine than we have prescribed for them!

A child with ear pain, with or without fever, should be investigated by your health care practitioner. We do not recommend home treatment without advice from your health care practitioner.


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