Otitis Media (Ear Infection)

What is otitis media?

Otitis media, more commonly known as an ear infection, is when fluid does not drain properly into the nose and throat, leading to fluid build up in the area behind the eardrum which then becomes infected. While ear infections occur at any age, they most commonly affect babies and toddlers.

Why are they more common in children?

In children, the eustachian tube (a tube that connects the ear canal to the throat) is shorter and more horizontally-oriented, which increases the chances of the tube getting blocked, preventing fluid from draining. When fluid becomes stagnant it serves as a perfect medium in which bacteria can grow.

Signs and Symptoms

Some outward signs in younger children with ear infection could be tugging on the affected ear, a runny nose, and can often occur during the teething process. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • sleeplessness

  • irritability

  • fever

  • nasal congestion

  • coughing

Causes 

Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or a virus. Most ear infections are caused by viruses.

The Medical Approach 

As viruses are the most common cause of ear infections, treatment with antibiotics would be ineffective. Antibiotics should only be prescribed when proper diagnosis confirms bacteria is the presence of bacteria. However, is has become common practice for medical doctors to prescribe antibiotics without the proper diagnosis, despite ineffectiveness and significant health risks. In some cases, a surgical procedure called myringotomy is performed, and tubes are inserted through the tympanic membrane to drain the fluid. This method has been shown to have extremely mixed outcomes, and the recurrence of episodes occurs in 30-40% of children. Additional surgeries, including adenoid and tonsil removal are recommended in 20-50%.

The Non-Medical Approach 

80% of ear infections self-resolve in 9 days or less. Other ways to naturally keep ear infections away are as follows:

  • probiotic use to populate the body with helpful bacteria

  • avoid cigarette smoking

  • breastfeeding can protect against early ear infections by providing valuable immune factors in the breast milk

The Chiropractic Approach 

There is substantial evidence that chiropractic adjustments aid in resolution of ear infections. Subluxation of the atlas and/or occiput can affect the nerves that supply the eustachian tube and associated muscles, subsequently leading to undesirable construction or closure of the eustachian tube. Correcting subluxations in the upper cervical region may restore nerve function to the area, allowing proper drainage. Additionally, regular chiropractic care has been shown to boost immune system function.

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