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Ear Infections

December 01, 2012

CHIROPRACTIC APPROACH TO EAR INFECTIONS

Ear problems can be excruciatingly painful, especially in children. With 10 million new cases every year, ear infections (otitis media) are the most common illness affecting babies and young children and the number one reason for visits to the pediatrician—accounting for more than 35 percent of all pediatric visits.

Almost half of all children will have at least one middle ear infection before they’re a year old, and two-thirds of them will have had at least one such infection by age 3. The symptoms can include ear pain, fever, and irritability. 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.

Standard treatment for most cases of otitis media is with antibiotics, which can be effective if the culprit is bacterial (antibiotics, of course, do nothing to fight off viruses). But, according to many research studies, antibiotics are often not much more effective than the body’s own immune system. And repeated doses of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria that scoff at the drugs, while leaving the child screaming in pain.

Frequent ear infections are also the second most common reason for surgery in children under 2 (with circumcision being the first). In severe cases—for example, when fluids from an ear infection haven’t cleared from the ear after several months, and hearing is affected—specialists sometimes prescribe myringotomy and tympanostomy, more commonly known as “ear tubes.” During the surgical procedure, a small opening is made in the eardrum to place a tube inside. The tube relieves pressure in the ear and prevents repeated fluid buildup with the continuous venting of fresh air. In most cases, the membrane pushes the tube out after a couple of months and the hole in the eardrum closes. Although the treatment is effective, it has to be repeated in some 20 to 30 percent of cases. And this kind of surgery requires general anesthesia, never a minor thing in a small child. If the infection persists even after tube placement and removal, children sometimes undergo adenoidectomy (surgical removal of the adenoids)—an option that is effective mostly through the first year after surgery.

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. Dr. Joan Fallon, a chiropractor who practices in Yonkers, New York, has published research showing that, after receiving a series of chiropractic adjustments, nearly 80 percent of the children treated were free of ear infections for at least the six-month period following their initial visits (a period that also included maintenance treatments every four to six weeks).

“Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies and recover more quickly,” explains Dr. Fallon.

Dr. Fallon, whose research garnered her the acclaim of childrearing magazines like Parenting and Baby Talk, often sees great success when she treats a child for otitis media. “Once they fight it themselves, my kids tend to do very well and stay away from ear infections completely. Unless there are environmental factors like smoking in the house, an abnormally shaped Eustachian tube, or something like that, they do very well,” she says.

Chiropractic Care Can Help…
Talk to Dr. Logan Brincefield or Dr. Leland Brincefield about your child’s ear infections. They are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children.

Many parents bring their children into our office asking us to treat their ear infections. Our first response is that the purpose of chiropractic care is not the treatment of conditions or diseases; rather, it is the restoration of normal body function. We explain that as chiropractors, we work with the nervous system via gentle spinal adjustments. We reduce stress related interference to the nervous system, thereby enhancing all overall body function. We further explain that all systems of the body—muscular, glandular, respiratory, circulatory, digestive, eliminatory, hormonal and immunological—depend on the optimal function of the nervous system. With chiropractic, we focus on nerve system function to enhance all the body’s systems.

Because many parents are unaware of the variety of options available for the treatment of ear infections, we continue, “As a parent, you have some choices to make. You can either treat the ear infection, or not—that’s your right as a parent. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a watch-and-wait approach, because the evidence-based research about antibiotics is showing that not only are they ineffective at treating ear infections, but they will actually lead to repeated ear infections in your child.

“Regardless of the choices you make, the chiropractic approach will improve your child’s inherent ability to function. Doesn’t it make sense to have your child function at an optimal level for healing no matter how (or if) you choose to treat? We will assess your child’s spine, make the necessary adjustments to improve nerve system function and offer lifestyle suggestions to reduce nerve system stress for your child. We will also support any decision you make in your choice to treat the infection or not. This is your right as a parent, and we stand behind informed choice.”