There are over 10 million new cases of Otitis media (more commonly known as an ear infection) every year, making it the most common illness affecting infants and children. It is also makes up more than 35% of all pediatric visits; the number one reason parents take their children to the doctor. Symptoms can range from irritability to severe pain and fever. Otitis media can be either bacterial or viral in origin, and frequently results from another illness such as a cold. For many children, it can become a chronic problem, requiring treatment year after year, and putting the child at risk of permanent hearing damage and associated speech and developmental problems.
The standard treatment for most cases of otitis media is with antibiotics, however, the role of antibiotics in treating ear problems in children is unclear. According to many research studies, antibiotics are often not much more effective than the body’s own immune system. One study found that children with chronic earaches receiving amoxicillin experienced two to six times the rate of recurrence when compared with those taking a placebo. A review of 27 studies to determine the role of antibiotics in preventing acute earaches and treating chronic middle ear fluid suggested that “…only one in six children have improved outcome, and the improvement only lasts for about one month.” In a review of antibiotic therapy for acute middle ear problems, “…poor evidence supported the routine use of antibiotic therapy [in children 2 years and older].” Excessive antibiotic use can disrupt the balance of beneficial intestinal bacteria and can also lead to drug-resistant bacteria.
Ear infections are also the second most common reason for surgery in children under 2 years old. In some cases doctors will sometimes recommend tympanostomy, or “tubes.” This surgical procedure consists of making a small opening in the eardrum to place a tube inside. The idea being that the tube will relieve pressure in the ear and prevent repeated fluid buildup with the continuous venting of fresh air. In most cases, the tubes are pushed out after a few of months and the hole closes. The treatment can be effective but in many cases has to be repeated. The most concerning aspect is that this type of surgery requires general anesthesia, never a minor thing in a small child. Adenoidectomy (surgical removal of the adenoids) is also a common option, especially if the ear infection persists after antibiotics and tubes. However, this is only effective mostly through the first year after surgery and again is a surgical procedure.
Before yet another round of “maybe-they’ll-work-and-maybe-they-won’t” antibiotics or the drastic step of surgery, more parents are considering chiropractic to help children with chronic ear infections. So, how exactly does chiropractic help? Essentially, a subluxation in the vertebrae in the upper neck, typically the occiput or C1 (atlas) alters the eustachian tubes ability to drain properly. This can occur through the mechanical changes as well as the interference in the nerves that innervate the muscles surrounding the area. Correcting the subluxation mobilizes drainage of the ear and if they can continue to drain without buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies and can recover quicker. We have had great success treating ear infections and preventing long rounds of antibiotics and invasive procedures
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics indicates that there is a strong correlation between chiropractic adjustments and the resolution of ear infections. Research has shown that close to 80% of children treated with a series of chiropractic adjustments did not experience another ear infection within the six-month period following their initial visits.
More and more parents are beginning to look to chiropractors to complement their children’s health care. And it’s quite reasonable to assume that health can only be achieved by addressing the root cause of a health problem rather than just treating the symptoms. Chiropractic is safe and effective and something that parents should try, certainly before putting their child through surgery.
If you have any questions about how we can help your child with ear infections or any other condition please let us know, we are more than happy to answer any of your concerns.