Ear infections are an issue that many children encounter. The Eustachian tube, the tube that links the middle ear to the throat, does not fully develop till about 4 years of age. Until then its position and size doesn't allow for proper drainage and it easily becomes clogged. When the Eustachian tube becomes plugged up with excess mucus, moisture and bacteria build up leading to an ear infection. I'd like to talk a little bit about what we can do naturally and herbally to prevent and treat ear infections.
Antibiotics are the main treatment used by western medicine for ear infections. Although their intention is to rid the body of bacteria that is causing infection, they are often over used in the treatment of childhood illnesses. This causes strains of bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotics leading to the need for stronger and more frequent antibiotics. Antibiotics are strong and disrupt the delicate balance of kids bodies.
Prevention is the key when it comes to ear infections. If there is a case of reoccurring ear infections, you may wish to avoid mucus forming foods. These foods include dairy, wheat, sugar, eggs and processed foods. Not surprisingly, these are the foods that people most often have allergies to. An elimination diet should be done with your child to see if the chronic ear infections are the result of food allergies. In any case these foods should be avoided during the duration of the ear infection. Cold foods and eating fruit out of season can also contribute to cold and mucus in the body. Try to avoid cold fruit and fruit juice straight from the refrigerator in cases of infection.
A simple wool hat can be an amazing tool in the prevention of ear infections. A hat can block cold and wind from getting into the ear and causing an infection. Probiotics are especially important in the treatment and the prevention of ear infections. They help contribute to the body's natural defense system. They are especially important to give your child if they are taking antibiotics. Probiotics help replenish the natural healthy flora that antibiotics destroy.
In order to effectively treat ear infections naturally, it is important to start treatment at the first sign of infection. Colds, congestion and runny noses can easily lead to ear infections. Kids will often pull at their ear or rub their ears when an infection is present.
The most effective remedy for ear infections, that I've found, is garlic mullen ear oil. It helps to relieve the pain and treat the infection. This is something that can be purchased from the health food store or you can easily make it. In a jar add several tablespoons of chopped garlic and several tablespoons of mullen flowers. Cover the herbs with extra virgin olive oil and put the lid on. Let it set for a week, strain and place in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use it, let it warm to room temperature before placing several drops in the ear. Make sure that you use the oil in both ears, even if the infection is currently present in only one ear because the infection can spread to the other ear.
Echinacea tincture should be utilized during times of infection to help boost the immune system. Aviva Romm suggests 1 drop of tincture per 2 lbs of body weight taken 4 times a day. Chamomile tea can also be an asset helping to calm and soothe an upset and distressed child.
In Chinese Medicine the ear is the outlet of the kidneys. Chronic issues of the ears represent the distress of the kidneys. Nettle tea is very nourishing and helpful to issues of the kidneys. Also warm packs placed on the lower back (the kidney area) can help to increase circulation to the area. Warm packs on the ears can also help to bring circulation to the ears.
Rest is, perhaps, the most important part to the healing of illness in children and never underestimate the power of a little TLC. When the ear infection does not respond to home care or if it gets worse it is important to seek medical care.
Gladstar, R. (2001). Family herbal: a guide to living with energy, health and vitality. North Adams, MA: Storey Books.
Romm, A. (2003). Naturally healthy babies and children: a commonsense guide to herbal remedies, nutrition and health. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.