EAR INFECTIONS AND HOMEOPATHY
Acute otitis media is a painful infection of the middle ear, the portion of the ear behind the eardrum. Otitis media often occurs after a cold, sore throat or other respiratory illness. Although it can affect adults, acute otitis media occurs primarily in infants and young children. It is estimated that at 7 years old up to 95% of all children in the United States have experienced at least one bout of otitis media. It is the most common reason why parents take children to the doctor.
When the Eustachian tube that connects the top of the throat to the middle ear is blocked with mucus and swelling due to a cold, fluids gather behind the eardrum, providing an ideal environment for bacteria to grow in. That alone can start an infection, generating even more fluid and creating pressure on the eardrum that can be very painful. The eardrum can become red and inflamed. Children who are too young to describe their discomfort cry, fuss, and pull at their ears. They might also appear unresponsive because they can not hear well. The accumulation of fluid in the middle ear prevents the eardrum and small bones in the ear to move, causing temporary hearing loss. Eventually, recurrent ear infections and subsequent hearing loss can affect speech and language development in a child.
Otitis media is traditionally treated with antibiotics, which sometimes reverse the infection, but do not necessarily help prevent recurrent future ear infections. In fact, the rate of resistance to antibiotics in the United States is alarmingly hight, about 25 percent. In spite of this, many pediatricians prescribe them automatically at the first sign of infection. In addition there have been a number of studies have concluded that in most cases otitis media can be handled by the immune system without antibiotics. The New York Times has published a series of articles recently on the subject (22/8/2000 NYT, 7/5/02, 10/10/04, etc), also reflecting the concern of the medical community and parent groups on the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
There is also the additional concern that too many antibiotics from early childhood lead to long term adverse health effects: diarrhea, nausea, poor appetite, malaise, yeast infections in the mouth and vagina, immuno-depressants such as chronic fatigue syndrome, to name a few. As a conclusion, the use of antibiotics should be limited to serious infections that can not be overcome by the immune system itself. This is not usually the case of otitis media.
So what to do? No choice but to seek alternative ways to relieve symptoms and help the body overcome the crisis. A number of basic naturopathic principles should always be applied: the patient, especially if a child, must be always kept well hydrated; sugar, white flour and dairy products must be eliminated since they promote mucus production in the body; we must make sure the patient is kept warm and confortable at all times. Herbs like Echinacea and Propolis usually strengthen the immune system as well as vitamin C.
In addition, Classical Homeopathy, offers a large number of remedies that fight acute middle ear infections, but also strengthen the patient's constitution so that the condition does not keep recurring in subsequent infections. Here are examples of some of these very useful remedies:
ACONITUM is prescribed for earaches that start suddenly, often after exposure to wind or cold and are accompanied by high fever, agitation and restlessness. The child´s face is red, hot and flushed and expresses anxiety.
BELLADONNA is recommended for ear infections in which the pain varies rapidly in severity but is usually worse on the right side and is accompanied by fever, facial flushing, nightmares, and sensitivity to light
CHAMOMILLA is one of the great remedies for otitis media in young children in which there is terrible pain; the child has one cheek red and the other pale, is very irritable, shrieks in pain and can only be comforted if she is cradled in the arms .
MERCURIUS is a remedy for acute and recurrent otitis with greenish or yellowish discharge in the ear. It usually affects right ear, and is accompanied by discharge and hearing loss. The child feels worse at night, and also usually has strep throat, sinusitis or bronchitis.
PULSATILLA is the remedy most often used both in cases of acute and chronic otitis media. The otitis is usually preceded by a cold. The left ear is commonly affected, and the pain is felt as if the ear is going to explode. The patient feels worse in a warm room and better outdoors. The child is very clingy and tearful.
Finally, we must always remember that homeopathic remedies are medicines and should always be used with caution and if possible, always in consultation with a professional homeopath.