Blackmores ear infections

Ear infections

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Ear infections are classified according to the part of the ear that’s affected. Middle ear infections (otitis media) are the most common type in children. Otitis externa is infection of the ear canal between the ear drum and the outer ear.

Symptoms

Otitis media (middle ear infection) commonly occurs after an upper respiratory tract infection or allergic reaction. Symptoms may include:

  • Earache, which may come and go for up to nine days, depending on the age of the child
  • Fever, which may last 1-2 days
  • Headache
  • Poor appetite
  • Muffled hearing or noises in the ear (e.g. humming sound)
  • Poor balance
  • Children may be restless and irritable, and may cry for several hours at a time
  • Severe or chronic middle ear infections may lead to:
    • Glue ear (also called serous otitis media) in which fluid and pus accumulate in the middle ear, sometimes for weeks or months at a time
    • Ruptured ear drum
    • Damage to other structures of the ear
  • Severe ear infections occasionally result in a permanent reduction in hearing.
  • In the majority of cases, middle ear infections resolve without the use of antibiotics, and even a ruptured ear drum usually heals without medical intervention

Swimmer’s ear is a form of otitis externa, an infection that affects the outer ear. Symptoms have a rapid onset, and may include earache (sometimes with itching or a sense of fullness or tenderness in the region), muffled hearing, and discharge from the ear.

Causes

If the Eustachian tube that connects the nose and ear becomes blocked, bacteria and mucus can become trapped in the middle ear, causing the area to become inflamed and infected.

Children are more vulnerable to otitis media than adults because their Eustachian tubes are smaller and thus more likely to become blocked. Additionally, children are more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections such as colds, which can cause congestion of the Eustachian tube, increasing the likelihood of ear infection.

Middle ear infections are common in children from the ages of 4 months to 4 years old, but in particular from 6-18 months of age.  In addition, the following factors increase children’s susceptibility:
Recent or recurrent upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. colds and flu) or allergies

  • Exposure to cigarette smoke, smoke from wood-burning stoves, fumes, or air pollution
  • Attending daycare
  • Using a dummy, especially at 12 months of age and older
  • In babies, drinking from a bottle or being breast-fed while lying down
  • Having a cleft palate or Down’s syndrome
  • A family history (parents or siblings) of ear infections

As it’s name suggests, swimmer’s ear often develops after swimming in contaminated water, but may also occur any time that water becomes trapped in the ear canal, creating an environment that’s hospitable for bacteria to multiply in. This is more likely to occur if the ear canal is obstructed for some reason, too little earwax is present (which may be a consequence of spending a large amount of time in water) or the tissues of the ear are damaged.

Natural therapies

  • The following information is intended as supportive therapy for children over 2 years old and for adults, and should not replace medical advice. Seek the advice of your healthcare professional for supportive therapy for younger children.
  • Children who experience recurrent ear infections may benefit from taking a specially formulated children’s multivitamin and mineral formula. Look for a formula that provides a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals in order to supplement any nutritional gaps in the child’s diet and help maintain healthy immune function.
  • Taking the probiotic strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium animalis supports a normal healthy immune system, and may help reduce the severity and frequency of mild upper respiratory infections in preschool aged children.
  • Echinacea supports the immune system and may assist the body in fighting infections.
  • For children, echinacea is best taken in a liquid form that allows an appropriate dose to be dispensed according to the child’s age.
  • For adults, echinacea is often taken with antioxidant nutrients that also support the immune system, such as betacarotene, vitamins C and E and the minerals zinc and selenium. Alternatively, echinacea may be combined with garlic, which has traditionally been used to help the body fight infections, and displays antimicrobial activity against a wide range of infectious organisms.

Diet and lifestyle

  • Stop smoking. Exposing children to cigarette smoke increases their risk of acute and chronic ear infections, glue ear, and other health problems (including asthma). Furthermore, exposure to smoke interferes with children’s recovery from ear infections, making it more likely that medical intervention will be required. Smoking affects children even when they’re not present, as the residue of the smoke remains in the environment for an extended period of time, and they’ll also be in contact with it if it’s on your clothes or in your hair.
  • Optimise your child’s nutritional status with a healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.  Avoid soft drinks, sweets and other processed foods.
  • Food allergies and intolerances are common in children with chronic otitis media, with the most commonly involved foods including cow’s milk, wheat, egg white, peanuts, soy and corn. Talk to your doctor or natural health professional about allergy testing to determine whether your child is affected. Skin prick testing, blood tests or a food elimination diet and symptom diary may all help to pinpoint the allergens. If you’re breast-feeding, you may need to remove these substances from your own diet. Note that when an allergenic food has been withdrawn from a child’s diet for some time, the allergic reaction may be stronger when that food is reintroduced into the diet. Consequently, if symptoms improve when certain foods are avoided, it may be advisable not to reintroduce that food after the elimination diet. This policy applies to children and asthmatics in particular. Talk to your healthcare professional about your personal circumstances.
  • Breastfeeding for at least three months may help protect children from ear infections, but it is unclear whether this is due to a protective effect of the breast milk, or due to the delay in the introduction of potential allergens such as cow’s milk and soy. Human milk is rich in antibodies and supports immunity, helping babies to fight off infections.
  • When breastfeeding, keep the baby in a semi-upright position, and similarly, if your baby is bottle-fed, don’t lie the baby down to feed. The action of gravity on the contents of the bottle increases the pressure on the baby's ear passages.
  • Wean your baby off a dummy by around six months of age. By twelve months, children who are still using dummies are more likely to be prone to ear infections.
  • Don’t allow the ear to get wet when you have swimmer’s ear. You may need to wear a shower cap when bathing and avoid swimming until the infection is resolved. If you do go swimming, take care to keep your head above water.
  • Don't swim in polluted water.
  • Clear the water from your ears after swimming or bathing
  • Don’t use cotton buds or other items to clear wax from your ears.
  • Don’t use soap to wash out the ears, as this can alter the pH of the canal, predisposing you to infection.

Important notes

  • Serious consequences can arise from untreated ear infections, so it’s important that you consult your healthcare professional if you or your child are displaying symptoms of infection or develop hearing problems.