Anyone who has suffered from an earache can tell you that they are awful. Both for the parent and the child. Up all night wailing and holding their little ears…this kind of pain isn’t for the weak. Fortunately, acute ear infections usually come on fast and furiously and hopefully with correct treatment, retreat just as quickly.
The Science: What exactly is Otitis Media? Otitis media refers to inflammation of the middle ear. This happens when a cold, allergy, or upper respiratory infection, and the presence of bacteria or a virus lead to the accumulation of pus and mucus behind the eardrum, blocking the Eustachian tube.
Incidence: Acute and chronic ear infections account for 15 to 30 million visits to the doctor each year in the U.S.
Otitis media with effusion: OME is the chronic build up of fluid behind the ears that creates pressure and can affect hearing. This often causes the eardrum to bulge outwards and sounds may become more muffled. This is the most common reason children undergo surgery to receive ear grommets or tubes to release the fluid build up. I am not sure about you but I thought Grommets were little surfer dudes?
Earaches & Traditional Chinese Medicine:
TCM looks at earaches a bit differently. While Western medicine mainly observes external causes, Traditional medicine investigates both internal and external causes of disease.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are three main reasons why a child would have an earache:
1) An external attack of wind, heat or cold entering the ear. Translation: virus or bacteria.
2) Internal causes of earaches are usually heat or cold accompanied by dampness. Translation: diet, stress, lifestyle and anatomical differences can all affect how one responds to a pathogen.
3 ) Lingering Pathogenic Factor. Translation: repeated bouts of antibiotics, a lingering virus that has never completely cleared like Lyme, or from a vaccine.
One major culprit for earaches is systemic inflammation.
Inflammation can cause a swelling of the tonsils, sinuses, adenoids, lymph nodes and parotid gland. This creates an obstruction and fluid builds up which often leads to infection. Inflammation also slows down the healing process.
How does inflammation occur?
- Dietary factors such as dairy, wheat, gluten, artificial colors and sweeteners.
- Allergies to animals, dander, mold, pollen, grass, pesticides, hormones
- Cigarette smoke
- Emotional volatility and stress can lead to stagnation which impedes blood flow and circulation.
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Overuse of antibiotics
Chronic ear infections may present with:
- Hearing loss
- Milder pain
Supplementing your child’s treatment at home:
Dietary therapy: It is important to immediately look at the child’s diet. There may be an allergy to dairy or wheat that is contributing to phlegm accumulation.
Try a challenge by removing an offender ( I would start with cows milk ) for two weeks and see if you see a reduction in symptoms. Reintroduce the milk two weeks later in a small dosage and see if the symptoms return or get worse.
If there are no changes then try eliminating wheat and then sugar.
Adding supplements and foods:
- Quercitin: I found a great Vitamin C and Quercitin powder by Designs for Heath that works seamlessly into a smoothie. Note this is very tart.
- Bee pollen (high in quercitin and flavinoids)
- Bee Propolis: cant say it tastes great but worth a try.
- Boswellia (AKA Frankincense) & Myrrh
- Omega fish oil: I like Nordic Naturals. They are very tasty. Just make sure to floss afterwards as gummies are notorious cavity makers.
Probiotics to boost the immune system and help fight against dampness and phlegm. Klaire labs makes a great powdered probiotic. I find it very easy to slip the powdered probiotics seamlessly into smoothies and yogurt. My kids hated the chewable kind but my husband liked them so that was easy.
Herbal Therapy: Jia Jian Xiao Chai Hu Tang. Please check in with your acupuncturist about this classic formula.
Rub Castor oil along the lymph nodes around the throat and neck. I like to apply this at night with a little massage on the nape of the neck. Because castor oil is so goupy I make sure to put on old towel on the pillow and tie up my kid’s hair.
Acupressure: the goal is to clear heat and relieve pressure.
Try these acupressure points. I would apply a light tapping pressure with a small spoon.
Treat acute pain:
Acupressure on SJ 5
Large intestine 11
Large intestine 4
- Cranio Sacral Therapy
- Shonishin treatment is a great way to reduce the pain and swelling around the ear. Make an appointment with your acupuncturist.
Sometimes that pain is so intense that any sensation around the ear feels like torture. For these I avoid the local area and focus on these points on the arms and feet.