Ear Infections (Otitis Media)

Following a querry about why a child was suffering from ear infections and if there is a more "natural" means of treating this condition other than with drugs we answer with the following:

Ear Infections: Eighty percent of children have at least one ear infection during their first five years. A child suspected of having an ear infection should be examined by a physician. Ear infections usually occur following a cold, when the eustachian tube (a structure that allows for the equalization of the air pressure between the middle ear and the back of the throat) becomes blocked and infected. The bacterial infection resulting from the pus buildup causes pain which can be accompanied by a high fever.

Although antibiotics are usually prescribed for ear infections by conventional doctors, there are many strategies for parents who are interested in a more natural approach.

Breast feeding has proven to protect against ear infections. Recent studies show that the longer a baby is nursed, the less likely he or she will be to contract otitis media and other infections. Possible reasons for this are that mother's milk contains antibodies that protect against disease, and that nursing precludes the use of cow's milk (an irritant to the eustachian tube and a common allergen).

Treatmenst geared toward boosting the immune system can help children prone to ear infections. Dr.Smith says, "We now know that if a patient is allowed to mobilize his own immune system with an approach such as cold socks treatment, mullein flower oil ear drops, one thousand milligrams of vitamin C every hour or two, along with the herbal remedy echinacea as well as an appropriate homeopathic remedy, he may not get sick for another year. These treatment modalities often work faster than the antibiotics and are very safe. Once the immune system has been primed and the body learns how to fight off these ear infections without antibiotics, repeated infections are rare."
Antibiotics should only be used if the infection moves to the mastoid bone (behind the ear) or the meninges (3 membranes covering the brain and spinal cord).

Homeopathy: According to a Dr. Moskowitz, a critical factor in the long term treatment of otitis media is the effect of vaccinations on the immune system. He strongly advises parents against vaccinating their children until they are completely over the cycle of ear infections. Many parents don't realize what an added stress a series of vaccinations, such as the DPT booster, poses to the child's weakened immune system. Dr.Moskowitz has seen many children who are nearly cured of a chonic ear infection have the cycle return following a routine immunization.

When treating a child homeopathically for an ear infection, one must concider the child's "constitutional structure", the personality traits of the child. These may include a child's tendency to have certain types of symptoms, such as a tendency to become hot or cold, to perspire in a certain way or area, or to sleep in a certain way. In keeping this basic constitutional profile in mind, it is usually possible to both find a remedy that will help the long term development of the child and to break the cycle of infection. On top of the homeopathic remedies, Dr. Moskowitz recommends putting 4 or 5 drops of hot vegetable, sesame or mullein flower oil in the child's ear and keeping it in with a cotton ball, which greatly relieves the pain of the earache.

Herbal Medicine: Herbal remedies for ear infections include the internal use of echinacea, as well as garlic oil capsules, says Dr. Hoffman. He also recommends drops of mullein flower oil in the ear, as long as there is no perforation of the ear drum.
Hoffman tells of a six year old boy who was diagnosed as having neurological deafness (damage to the auditory nerve in both ears) . Though the child was not in any pain, he had not been hearing well in class. He came to Hoffman with his family, all of whom suffered from severe sinus problems. The herbs prescribed to the family members, goldenrod, echinacea and raw garlic helped reduce excessive secretion of mucous. Since there are no herbs that can cure neurological deafness, Hoffman did not expect the child's hearing loss to improve. However, in treating the whole family for sinus blockage, with a low-mucous diet and the prescribed herbs, the boy's sinus problem cleared up and his hearing did improve.

Hoffman concluded that the child had been misdiagnosed and that 50 % of his hearing problem had been due to mucous buildup resulting from a prolonged infection in the middle ear and was not related to nerve damage.

Cold Socks Treatment:
Randall Bradley, N.D. , a naturopath from Omaha Nebraska, frequently uses the cold socks treatment, a long-standing naturopathic therapy for stimulating the immune system.

Dr. Bradley finds this treatment to be effective in relieving the symptoms of many upper respiratory conditions such as head and chest colds, earaches, the flu, sore throats and even allergies. With this procedure, he says, relief is often seen within thirty minutes. If it is not, one can repeat the treatment while the patient remains covered and in bed. After four hours or usually by morning, the wet socks should be totally dry, the feet warm and the symptoms gone or much improved. Dr.Bradley says it is effective with both children and adults.

Step 1: Soak the foot part of a pair of 100% cotton socks in very cold water and wring them out thoroughly.

Step 2: Put the child's feet into a basin or bathtub of hot water, as hot as tolerable without burning. Have the bath deep enough to cover the ankles. Have the child sit on a chair or the edge of the tub, and keep the rest of the body warm. Soak the feet for about 5 to 8 minutes until they are hot and pink.

Step 3: Remove the feet from the hot water and pat then dry with a towel.

Step 4: Immediately put on the cold wet cotton socks, and then a pair of dry wool socks over those. At this point the patient should be covered and kept warm.

Step 5: Have the child go directly to bed, keeping the feet covered throughout the night. According to Dr. Bradley, this therapy will fail if the feet are uncovered, or if the patient walks around or sits in a chair uncovered.

Dr. Bradley believes that this home remedy works hemodynamically (by moving the blood to a specific area of the body -- in this case the feet). He suggests that when the blood is drawn away from the head to warm the feet, pressure in the head is relieved. As a result, the symptoms of the illness may disappear, and children usually fall asleep immediately. People who try this remedy will not only feel better the next day, but the treatment may actually boost their immune system, moving them through the illness faster.


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