When your little one starts complaining about ear pain, it can be easy to worry. The ear is a complicated part of the body with a lot of little pieces. The words ‘ear infection’ can also be worrying.
The NIH says this about how often children get ear infections:
Five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor. The scientific name for an ear infection is otitis media (OM).
The good news is that common doesn’t mean normal.
What are Ear Infections?
Healthline explains ear infections as follows:
“[Ear infections] often result from a blockage of your Eustachian tubes, which causes fluid to build up in your middle ear. Eustachian tubes are small tubes that run from each of your ears directly to the back of your throat. … Ear infections can also develop from infected adenoids. Your adenoids are glands on the roof of your mouth behind your nose that help protect your body from infections. Infections can spread from these glands to the nearby ends of your Eustachian tubes. … Ear infections occur most commonly in young children because they have short and narrow Eustachian tubes.”
Healthline goes on to say the following as far as symptoms of ear infections in little ones go:
Along with symptoms seen in adults, such as ear pain and drainage, young children and babies may show other signs of an ear infection, such as:
- rubbing or pulling their ear
- not reacting to certain sounds
- frequently losing balance
- fussiness or restlessness
- loss of appetite
Ear infections in children are often treated as a buildup of liquid in the inner ear. The common way of addressing the issue is draining the ear and giving the child antibiotics.
Antibiotics can also cause problems for the body, however. They don’t just kill off the bad bacteria, but all bacteria–the good and the bad. This can cause problems and imbalances in the gut biome. The gut is home to large parts of the body’s endocrine, immune, and digestive systems. It is also crucial for the production and conversion of many neurotransmitters–contributing to the ‘gut feeling’s people get. There’s basically a second brain in your gut–and it’s the one that supports many of the hormones attributed to mental health. If you kill off the good bacteria in the gut’s biome, it isn’t able to function properly. Because the body is like a Swiss watch, these bacteria dying impacts the entire body in many other ways.
The issue with these methods of treatment is that the pain and infection in the ear isn’t always from a buildup of liquid alone. While there may be more liquid in the ear than is beneficial, that isn’t necessarily the source. The body doesn’t make mistakes–if there’s a buildup of liquid in the ear, it’s because the body is trying to heal itself. So what is the body trying to heal itself from?
Inflammation and Ear Infections
The NIH says this about ear infections:
An ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by bacteria, that occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum.
Inflammation is the cause of all bodily illness. If there’s something wrong, it can be traced back to inflammation. Not all inflammation is obvious, either. Your little one could be dealing with hidden inflammation.
When a part of your body gets inflamed, it becomes red and swollen, painful to the touch, and hot. The swelling is caused by the body sending blood and other liquids to that area to address it. The liquid buildup in your child’s ear could well be from their body’s attempts to address the cause of the inflammation. Because of this, draining the liquid won’t make it go away–the liquid will just come back, again, as your body attempts to address the issue and repair itself.
The Three Ts
Inflammation comes from three different places: traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas are physical stresses–falling down while playing outside, running into a wall, falling off a chair. These traumas can knock something in the child’s body out of alignment. When this happens, the body isn’t sitting like it’s supposed to, putting additional stress on the body to work properly.
Toxins are from chemical imbalances within the body–eating something the child is allergic to, or something that doesn’t belong in the body, as an example. A hormonal imbalance could be another chemical stressor, as could air fresheners and environmental toxins or allergies.
Thoughts are mental stresses. Maybe your little one got into an argument over a toy with a friend or sibling. Maybe they don’t like loud noises, or they’ve been around too many lights or an overstimulating atmosphere.
The body can only take a certain amount of stress. Each of these Ts put stressors on the body, and the body doesn’t differentiate between the stressor it’s experiencing. A child could have all thought-related stress, and no physical stress, and the body would become sick all the same.
How to Address Inflammation
A way to help decrease the inflammation your child is experiencing is a warm compress over the ear. Heat dilates blood vessels, helping improve circulation.
There are some essential oils, too, that are anti-inflammatory as well as anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Never put these oils directly in the child’s ears, and always do your research on good-quality oils.
Hydrogen peroxide and apple cider vinegar are anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial, respectively. Pouring a bit of each in your little one’s ear could also help. Do not do them both at the same time, or either if you suspect your child has a ruptured eardrum.
Breastmilk is another possible solution. According to WebMD:
Researchers say they have identified a compound in breast milk that combats the growth of infection-causing bacteria in infants.
For longer-term solutions to ear infections, there are different ways to release the stress on a child’s body, and prevent future inflammation.
If your child has had a trauma–a tumble, hit, or fall–the best way to relieve this stress is to get their body back into alignment. This is best done by getting a chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractors know how the body is supposed to sit–how each bone is to fit against its neighbor, and how the stresses of everyday life can nudge or knock this or that piece out of its place. Allowing a chiropractor to return the body’s structure back to its proper place helps relieve the physical stress.
Realigning your little one’s structural make up is the easiest way to ease any physical stress and pressure causing inflammation. Ear infections are a very common reason parents take their children to the chiropractor. Massages can also help relieve a trauma source of an ear infection.
Toxins are caused by stressors within the body. Is your child eating something they’re allergic to? Do you know everything they’re allergic to–there are four different kinds of allergies, and the body reacts to each of them differently. Getting your child’s allergies tested, will give you a clearer picture of what chemical stressors may be causing physical symptoms like ear infections. A stool test will give you a better idea of what your little one’s gut health looks like. Because so much happens in the gut, this is probably the best snapshot of your child’s body you could get.
It can be hard to believe that mental stresses–things like spats with friends or moving or things in life changing–can impact someone’s physical health. All kinds of stress produces stress hormone, though, and your thoughts are no different. Stress hormone isn’t made–it’s converted. This means it diminishes the amount of the other necessary hormones in your body. Your body reacts to mental stresses the same way it reacts to physical or chemical stresses, and that can cause inflammation just the same. These may be easier to see for adults who are able to communicate. However, they can still be very real concerns for little ones as well.
Make and sustain a steady nighttime routine, dimming the lights, turning of screens, and maybe reading a story. For a fussy little one with an ear infection, just cuddling may do a lot. And cuddling has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the health of children.
During this time, talk with them about any big feelings they may have had during the day. Was anything really exciting or frustrating? Did they enjoy something? Were they worried or afraid? What are some things they enjoyed today? Cultivating a habit of gratitude has been shown to change your brain for the better. Let this time at night help them settle in and get ready for bed, and potentially take their mind off the pain in their ears.
Ear infections can be worrying, and the prospect of your little one getting their ear drained isn’t much more comforting. The good news is that what may seem like a bad situation may just be a sign that your little one needs help. To get your little one adjusted, or to get their allergies or hormones tested, contact a Wellness Way clinic, today!