I’ve dealt with ear infections with both of my kids. When they’d get an ear infection, I wanted to fix it right away – usually it meant sleepless nights, or at least lots of wincing from the pain. Ear infections can be quite painful!
My older daughter had quite a few ear infections when she was little, but luckily, my younger hadn’t. However, one day she started complaining of her ear hurting. Even though she wasn’t crying, I could tell it hurt pretty badly. It kept up for a couple days so I took her to the doctor and she was diagnosed with an ear infection and given an antibiotic.
I decided to do some research on ear infections*. I’ve dealt with digestion problems, and I didn’t want to chance hurting her digestion with antibiotics if she didn’t really need them.
As I researched, I discovered that there were a few different underlying causes of ear infections. Probably the most common cause was stagnant fluid in the middle ear – many times an ear infection starts out with the child catching a cold or flu and then fluid has a chance to pool in the middle ear. If the fluids become stagnant, than bacteria has a chance to build up, thus causing an ear infection. (Although, sometimes ear infections can have a viral component and it is often hard to know if the infection is from a virus or bacteria.)
Even though many ear infections are caused by stagnant fluid, there are a few other reasons for ear infections as well.
- Bacteria can be introduced into the ear from unclean hands, or other dirty objects. Make sure to wash your hands before placing anything into the ear.
- Allergies can cause ear infections – especially dairy allergies. If your child has repeated infections, you might want to try eliminating dairy. Many children’s ear infections are cured by the removal of dairy.
- Sometimes other allergies (like gluten allergies) can be part of the problem. Many children will outgrow allergies, but some will need digestive healing in order to stop reacting to foods. If you want to test a child for allergies, IgG allergy testing will give you a detailed analysis of all the different possible foods that your child may be sensitive to. This test is available through naturopathic doctors, or through some regular doctors (usually called “integrated doctors”).IgG testing is one of the best food allergy tests available, but it isn’t perfect and can be expensive. You can also just observe your child. Did your child start getting ear infections when they started drinking milk?
- Sometimes water can get trapped in the ear from swimming or other means. As a first line of defense try to avoid “grimy water.” Infections are more likely if you’re swimming in a place where the sanitation isn’t what it should be.
The treatment and prevention of ear infections depends on what caused the ear infection in the first place. If your child has reoccurring ear infections, there’s a good chance allergies are a big part of the problem. If your child gets sick and then develops an ear infection, it’s likely caused by bacteria growing in the stagnant fluid.
If the infection happened after getting water trapped in the ear (as in swimmer’s ear), than the solution is to “dry out the ear” and kill the infection. (I explain how to do that here.)
My daughter most likely had the kind of infection caused by bacteria growing in stagnant fluid, so she did need something to kill the infection. After much research, I opted to treat her with garlic oil instead of antibiotics. I also worked on strengthening her immune system, and helping the fluid drain by elevating her head when she was lying down.
The result: she healed up and she hasn’t had any problems since.
Finding the cause of an ear infection can help you to determine what course of action would be most appropriate in your situation. I hope I’ve helped pinpoint what could be causing your child’s (or your) ear pain so that you can decide what’s best for you!
*I would use antibiotics if the situation warrants it. In this case, I felt that antibiotics were not needed. For more information on when antibiotics might be needed see my article on ear infections and antibiotics.