Ear Infections

What is an Ear Infection?

An ear infection is the inflammation of the inner, middle, or outer ear, often with infection. Ususally caused by bacteria, an ear infection occurs when fluids build up behind the ear drum. While anyone can get an ear infection, children tend to get them more often than adults. There are three main types of ear infections with different symptoms for each: Acute otitis media (AOM), otitis media with effusion (OME) and chronic otitis media with effusion (COME).

Here are some things to look for to check for an ear infection in your child:
- child tugs or pulls at his/her ear
- fusses and cries
- trouble sleeping
- fever
- fluid draining from the ear
- clumsiness or problems with balance
- trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds

Infection of the middle ear, or acute otitis media, is a common symptom in childhood. In fact, it is the most common cause of fever in the early years of life. This condition may be very painful, and after several recurring infections, may result in permanent damage. What can you do you to help your child?

Review of Traditional Treatment

Research shows that upper respiratory infections including otitis media, may be caused by improper drainage of the deep neck lymphatics along with improper nerve supply. In these cases, a doctor looking in your child's ear will see a buildup of fluid behind the tympanic membrane (ear drum), with the inside of the ear appearing inflamed and the ear drum bulging.

A popular medical method of medical of otitis media is prescription of oral antibiotics, usually amoxicillin. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, however, amoxicillin is not an effective treatment of otitis media. In fact, after administration of amoxicillin, occurrence of fluid in the ear was two to six times greater. A second study revealed that the use of antibiotics in the prevention of recurrent otitis media with effusion or fluid (OME) was limited, however, requiring the treatment of nine children to show an improved outcome in one. In 1997, the British Medial Journal reviewed the use of antimicrobials for AOM and published, "We conclude that existing research offers no compelling evidence that children with AOM routinely given antimicrobials have a shorter duration of symptoms, fewer recurrences, or better long term outcomes than those who do not receive them." The authors went on to warn that, "Antimicrobial use in children with otitis media results in the emergence of resistant organisms in those children and in the community. Development and spread of multiple resistant pneumonic after treatment for otitis media have been documented in day care centers and surrounding communities, including instances that have led to deaths from meningitis in children treated previously for uncomplicated AOM."

A Different Approach to Childhood Ear Infections

The most recent model suggests that reduced drainage or blockage in the drainage system of the cervical (neck) lymphatic chains causes a reduction in the lymphatic outflow from the Eustachian tube. This allows fluid to build up in the inner ear, making it an inviting environment for bacteria and viruses. Improper drainage of this fluid is caused by a combination of events. Increased muscle tone or muscle spasms, coupled with a child's already small drainage system, appear to be the major factors. 

Instead of treatment that tries to kill the bacteria or virus, a more natural approach would be to restore the normal drainage of the ears and neck lymphatics by restoring homeostasis. This is the chiropractic approach.

The Chiropractic Approach

A retrospective study examining improvement from chiropractic care of children with otitis media concluded that 93% of all episode improved, 75% in 10 days or fewer, and 43% with only one or two spinal adjustments. Another study reported that with chiropractic adjustments, it took 6.67 days to normalize the otoscopic examination in AOM and 8.57 days to normalize chronic/serious otitis media. The results indicated that there was a strong correlation between the chiropractic adjustment and the resolution of otitis media for children in the study. The chiropractic approach has gained support from several similar studies.

Doctors of chiropractic focus on restoring homeostasis. Vertebrae (spinal bones) fit together so that nerve supply produced in your brain may travel down your spinal cord and out through your spinal nerves. This life force is responsible for growth, repair, and healing in your entire body. When vertebrae are out of their natural alignment, nerves become stretched or twisted (commonly referred to as a nerve "pinch"), and this vital communication network in the body is disrupted. 

This neurological disturbance is called a subluxation. The Doctor of Chiropractic specializes in the detection and correction of subluxations. This is done by gently adjusting the spine and gently lining up the vertebrae in their natural position. This process may take weeks or months, depending on the amount of misalignment. Communication from the brain may then be restored throughout your body, and healing can take place. As your body heals, the symptoms often begin to diminish.

Chiropractic spinal adjustments correct subluxation, which returns the body to more normal homeostasis. This procedure reduces or eliminates the tense neck musculature responsible for blocking the normal drainage of the fluid. As this obstruction to the lymphatic system is removed, the excess fluid in the ears drains. The inviting environment for bacteria and viruses to grow in is removed, and the infection can heal. Once normal drainage is restored, the recurrence of ear infection is diminished or nonexistent.

When Should Your Child be Checked for Subluxations?

Newborn infants should be checked within hours after birth. During the pushing stage of labor, the spine, particularly the neck, may be injured as the baby is compressed and pushed down the birth canal. The most frequent subluxation experienced by newborns results from the pulling, twisting, and compression of the infant's spine during birth. 

Although birth subluxations may cause immediate symptoms, such as respiratory depression, there may be far-reaching effects that are manifested for years. The child's ability to fight against diseases, for example, may be lowered. Colds, ear infections, colic, and other illnesses may result.

Subluxations may also interfere with internal organ function, resulting in the inability to produce chemicals responsible for raising and lowering body temperature as needed. Research has also indicated that the body's immune response in the production of antiviral and antibacterial agents to fight infection is greatly compromised due to vertebral lesions (subluxations). 

Chiropractic is Safe and Natural

The chiropractic approach to health care is natural. It does not try to stimulate or inhibit normal body function. Instead, the chiropractor addresses the important relationship between the nervous system and disease. The systemic effect of vertebral subluxations is complex. Many childhood illnesses may be the result of abnormal body function caused by subluxations. In light of this, your chiropractor may be the best doctor to help your child.

Children should be checked frequently for subluxations to ensure good health.

Kyung-Woo Lee