Ear Infections

Pediatric Ear Infections

Sept 30, 2019 | Dr Theresa Osmer

It’s that time of year again - ear infection season! I am starting to see them rev up in the office again and as a parent, you may dread the upcoming season because of recurrent illnesses that run through your family.

So, why are littles so prone to them? A child’s auditory tube (which drains the middle ear into the back of our throats) is oriented horizontally. As we grow, it is pulled on a downward slope so that the middle ear drains effectively. Therefore, kids are more prone to infections because the things that contribute are then left to just sit and fester in the middle ear.

It is also important to note, that there are symptoms that may look like ear infections and are commonly misdiagnosed as one without a thorough evaluation. One of these things being teething in infants. While teething, it is not uncommon to have more drool and mucus, kids pulling at their ears, and rosy cheeks.

Image from  WebMD

Image from WebMD

Image from  MedLine Plus

Image from MedLine Plus

Based on my experience in the office, here are some tips to try to prevent ear infections:

1. Avoid mucus forming foods. Dairy is one of the biggest contributors! Personally, I can tell in my own body after a bowl of ice cream that I get congested and especially notice it the next day.
2. Use a snot sucker at the first sign of congestion. Get as many boogs out of the sinus and nasal passages as possible. You may even want to use a saline rinse, but make sure you read up on how to do this safely! I am not naive to the fact that this is very difficult on small children. The snot sucker is a better option!
3. Keeping the outer ear and external auditory tube clean using Garlic Mullein Ear Oil drops can help.
4. Probiotics, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Zinc are all effective for boosting the immune system. Especially if your child has been on antibiotics, probiotics are a must. Ask your provider to proper dosing as this can vary based on age and weight.
5. Chiropractic can help through the use of upper cervical manipulation. The effect on the nervous system as well as alignment of the upper cervical segment can help the ear to drain. Gentle soft tissue techniques to the neck can also help to drain the cervical chain lymph nodes. There is also a specific technique to address congestion in the ears and allow middle ear drainage that I commonly perform in my office.

Lastly, and a common intervention I recommend for a commonly overlooked cause:

6. Oral therapy for kids who may be dealing with “TOTS”. When the tissue in the mouth is not functioning properly, this can lead to abnormal swallow patterns contributing to food backing up into the auditory tube. If I feel this is an issue, especially for babies whose nutrition is dependent on breast milk or formula, I commonly refer to a pediatric dentist, lactation consultant, or speech therapy. A combination of all of these can be very helpful depending on the age of the child and their issue!

Local to Grand Rapids, I recommend these resources:

Pediatric Dentist:

  1. Pediatric Dental Specialists of West Michigan

  2. Mitten Kids Dentistry

Lactation Consultant:

  1. Shira Johnson, IBCLC

  2. Reagan Gielincki, IBCLC

  3. Baby Beloved

Speech Therapy:

  1. Courtney Joesel, MA, CCC-SLP of Building Blocks Therapy Services

If your child has an ear infection, treatment from your pediatrician may be necessary and may include antibiotics if the cause is bacterial. As a Chiropractic Physician, my job is to prevent them from occurring and to not be in competition with your pediatrician.

With regular chiropractic care throughout the “sick months” of October to March as well as applying some of the strategies listed above, I have seen kids go from being burdened with several ear infections and rounds of antibiotics to having little to no problems once starting care. This is based on my clinical experience but find this to be the case for many of my colleagues as well. It is important to keep in mind that I do not treat ear infections. As a chiropractic physician, my goal is to identify contributing factors and help guide my patients to a resolution!

Hoping this helps your littles to stay ear infection free all season long!