Otitis media in babies and children

Acute otitis media is an infection of the middle ear that occurs mostly in children 6 months to 3 years of age. What does the chiropractor do to treat affected babies and children?


A child with acute otitis media may have the following symptoms: fever, runny nose or other symptoms typical of a cold, ear pain that gets worse when lying down... or sometimes there are no noticeable symptoms and otitis media is only detected at the time of examination.


Antibiotics are often prescribed. However, since the underlying cause of the fluid blockage is not treated, recurrent infections are common.

A child with acute otitis media may have the following symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Runny nose or other typical cold symptoms

  • Ear pain that gets worse when lying down

... or sometimes there are no perceptible symptoms and otitis is only detected at the time of examination.


A diagnosis of otitis media is made by examining the inside of the ear and the tympanic membrane with an otoscope. Usually, an acute otitis media shows the following signs:

  • Redness of the tympanic membrane

  • Inflammation of the tympanic membrane

  • Opaque liquid behind the tympanic membrane

  • Presence of yellowish secretions in the ear canal if the tympanic membrane ruptures.


The medical treatments available are antibiotic therapy (use of antibiotics), myringotomy with insertion of a tympanostomy tube, or watchful waiting.


A disadvantage of using antibiotics to treat otitis media is that many cases are not caused by bacteria, but by viruses. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections. Overuse of this treatment can contribute to bacterial resistance. Although antibiotics are effective most of the time, we cannot ignore their side effects.


Possible complications of tube insertion, although rare, include risks related to anesthesia, scarring of the tympanic membrane and hearing loss.


In terms of watchful waiting (the "watch and wait" approach), treatment is limited to symptom relief during the first 48 to 72 hours after the onset of otitis. It has gained favour with some physicians in Canada in recent years precisely to avoid overuse of antibiotics.



What does a chiropractor do to treat an ear infection?


Fluid in the middle ear normally drains through the eustachian tube. The diameter of this tube is controlled by small muscles all around and can be affected by the presence of inflammation.

Tension or blockages in the cervical vertebrae can cause irritation to certain structures that can affect the proper functioning of the eustachian tube and the surrounding muscles, which can lead to tightening of this canal. The result is an accumulation of fluid in the middle ear, which creates the ideal environment for the development of a viral or bacterial infection. Antibiotics are often administered at this time. However, since the underlying cause of fluid blockage is not treated, recurrent infections are common.


Chiropractic care restores proper movement of the vertebrae, relieving irritation to the surrounding tissues and allowing functions to be normalized and fluids to be better drained back through the eustachian tube.



Home Care Recommendations


Keep nasal passages clear with saline solutions and a nasal pump or the Baby Fly Kit.


For babies who need a little extra help, Pediatric Echinacea can help reduce the duration of infections.


The use of high-quality probiotics is recommended to ensure the integrity of the normal microbial flora, especially if the child has already undergone antibiotic therapy, is not breastfeeding or attends daycare where he or she is in frequent contact with children who may be ill.

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