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Breaking the Cycle
Ear infections are a common medical concern among parents and their children. Below are some tips to help break the cycle and minimize the damage from painful, recurrent infections. Remember, there are exceptions to every rule and antibiotics can sometimes be needed. By using some of these tips you could find your child needs less antibiotics and has fewer ear infections.
Tips for Dealing with Ear Infections (& Other Recurrent Infections)
1. Tough it out with watchful waiting. Use ear drops containing benzocaine and a decongestant to help stop the pain.
A large study conducted in Holland showed no difference in outcome when children receiving antibiotics were compared to a placebo group. Antibiotics are not used nearly as much in Europe as in the United States. In fact, only 31 percent of general practitioners in Holland use antibiotics to treat ear infections.
By not treating immediately, you also allow your child’s immune system to react and build up a defense against future infections. Although it can be difficult to wait, sometimes it's the most helpful course of action in the long run.
2. Eliminate milk and other allergy-causing foods from the diet. Milk is the number one culprit in causing food allergies that often cause blockage of the Eustachian tube leading to ear infections.
If milk and dairy elimination does not clear up the infections, get a complete food allergy workup for your child from an allergist or find out about our allergy testing.
3. Never use antibiotics for colds or flu. Conditions caused by cold or flu do not respond at all to antibiotics, which kill bacteria. The cold or flu are viruses.
4. If you use antibiotics for your child, have your doctor prescribe the antifungal drug Nystatin along with the antibiotic.
There are no adverse reactions between Nystatin and any other antibiotic because Nystatin is not absorbed into the bloodstream from the intestine.
If your doctor won’t prescribe Nystatin, give your child one of the natural antifungal products such as garlic, caprylic acid, or grapefruit seed extract along with the antibiotic.
Acidophilus, often used as a natural antifungal, may not help while the antibiotics are being given since the antibiotics may kill the acidophilus as well. (Penicillin, chloramphenicol, erythromycin, tetracycline, oxacillin, Vancomycin, and ceftriaxone all will kill the acidophilus.)
After the antibiotics are completed, give your child supplements of Lactobacillus acidophilus for at least 30 days. You may want to consider giving acidophilus on a daily basis for intestinal health.
If your child has had frequent antibiotic prescriptions for ear infections or other problems, consider our organic acids test to evaluate current intestinal health and help you to decide the best course of action. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to yeast overgrowth, which is implicated in a variety of medical concerns.
5. Get a throat culture done if your child has frequent infections.
Ear infections are often caused by one of three types of bacteria inhabiting the nose and throat: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenza, and Moraxella catarrhalis. These bacteria account for 70 to 90 percent of all ear infections. Among these bacteria, the Streptococcus pneumoniae is most often the culprit in causing ear infections. There is a vaccine available for Streptococcus pneumoniae.
If you find out your child has a positive throat culture for Streptococcus pneumoniae, ask your pediatrician about getting vaccinated against this organism. The vaccine is termed the 23-type pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.
6. Consider having a parent or relative stay at home with the child until he is at least two years old.
Although it's not always possible, it's a good idea to avoid preschool and daycare centers. As most parents realize, child care environments can be breeding grounds for germs.
7. Breast-feed your child for as long as possible.
Breast milk contains antibodies against the bacteria that cause ear infections and other infections. Children who are breast-fed are much less likely to get frequent infections during the first six months of life.
8. Use an Echinacea nutritional supplement.
Echinacea, the cone flower, was used extensively by the Plains Indians of the United States to treat infections. Echinacea is a general immune system stimulant and will help decrease the incidence and severity of colds and flus as well as infections. Echinacea works best if it is given for 10 days and then discontinued for two weeks before started again. Echinacea treatment is even more effective if drops of garlic and mull oil are put in the ears at the same time. Three days of this therapy will clear up most ear infections.
Echinacea can be purchased at health food stores or ordered over the phone from Wild Oats (1-800-494-WILD).
9. Ask your doctor to give your child a "shot" of penicillin in the buttocks instead of the oral penicillin.
In the past, millions of people received penicillin this way. Although it may be less comfortable for your child, the main benefit of an injection over oral medication is that the injection will not kill the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and lead to an overgrowth of yeast and harmful bacteria like Clostridia. The antibiotic will reach the human cells in the intestine but will not reach the bacteria in the cavity inside the intestine.
10. If your child has five or more ear infections in one year, consider an evaluation of their immune system. Some children have an inborn weakness of the immune system called an immunodeficiency.
The best person to consult about this is called a clinical immunologist, which is a physician (MD or DO) who specializes in these rare diseases. Usually these physicians are also part-time researchers and are associated with a medical school. Find out more about our Immondeficieny lab tests.
If your child has a significant immunodeficiency, ask your physician about the possibility of using antibody infusions (called IVIG or intravenous immunoglobulin) to help your child’s immune system fight off new infections. Sudhir Gupta at the University of California at Irvine has obtained complete remissions of autism using IVIG therapy.
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