Ear Infection Case Studies
Anja Lindblad, ND
Treating children means treating ear infections. Whether it is the predisposition to infection due to the angle of the eustachian tube, the poor American diet, or the swimming pools that are so appealing to little children, it doesn’t matter. If you see children in your office, you will see ear infections.
The good news is there are several naturopathic treatments that have been used and found to be effective in the treatment of ear infections; everything from simple changes in the diet, to herbal concoctions, to wet sock hydrotherapy – we have tools and they are effective. Of course, the first step in evaluating an ear infection, and which treatment to use, includes a thorough workup and determination of the cause of the infection. Was the child swimming in a dirty pool? Do they have a sensitivity to something they are regularly exposed to (food or environmental)? Is there something IN their ear – a foreign object or a piece of food, perhaps? Is their eustachian tube blocked causing buildup within the ear?
Once each of these things has been determined, treatment becomes more straightforward. For example, if there happens to be a small (or large) object in a child’s ear – remove it (so long as it falls within your scope to do so)! If, however, a child was swimming in a dirty hot tub and swimming in the ocean for a week beforehand, and has a predisposition to ear issues – there are a few other things which must also be in place to resolve the infection.
Case Study # 1- Swimmers Ear
For example, a 7-year-old patient came in to my office after being on vacation in Hawaii for a week with his family where he swam daily. Once he returned he went to his father’s new house and swam in the hot tub, a tub that had not yet been cleaned out from the previous owners. Needless to say, he walked into my office with a very bright red and painful left ear. His axillary temperature in the office was around 100.4 degrees, he had slight discomfort with pressure on the left tragus and he was visibly disturbed by the earache. Within the canal of the left ear was a thick cream-colored discharge covering the majority of the canal (the right ear had only a very small amount of discharge in the canal, but no other symptoms). He did not have any significantly swollen lymph nodes, no pain with pressure applied to the mastoid process, or any other EENT type complaints.
With such a clear-cut case of otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, the treatment fell into place nicely.
During his first office visit, since his tympanic membrane had clearly not ruptured, I applied 3-4 drops of garlic/mullein oil with St. John’s Wort, and within five minutes he was asleep on the table. Aconite would have also been a positive addition to the ear oil, however it was momentarily unavailable. For the next 48 hours his treatment consisted of avoidance of sugar and foods he was sensitive to, increased rest, no swimming, an immune support combination that included Vitamins A, C, and E, zinc and echinacea, Ferr Phos 6x and onion ear muffs for pain. His parents brought him back into the office two days later so I could remove the discharge from the ear. At that time, his axillary temperature was 98.4 and the erythema had resolved from around the left ear. His parents reported he had experienced some minor discomfort in his right ear, but that too resolved within another day or two of continued treatment.
Case Study # 2- Otitis Media
Another little boy, who was around 18 months at the time of his visit, came in with a moderate case of otitis media. After some probing into his history, it became clear that he was sensitive to several foods and had not been avoiding them. His treatment consisted of removing his reactive foods, immune support via nutritional supplementation and warming/wet sock treatments, Ferr Phos 6x (he also had a history of anemia) and a session or two of craniosacral therapy. He too recovered without the use of antibiotics within a couple of days.
While neither of these cases used homeopathics, other than the Ferr Phos 6x cell salt, there are several homeopathic remedies to have close at hand for cases of ear pain/infections.
Homeopathy Guide for Acute Ear Infections
Sudden onset pain, especially after exposure to cold. Ear is red, hot, painful, and child feels worse with warm applications.
Also sudden onset. R-sided. Red face, restless, thirstless, throbbing pain, > heat, < movement.
One cheek red, one pale. > warm. Irritable, fretful, nothing will calm, intolerant, impossible to please. Child desires to be carried.
Ferr Phos 6x
This remedy can be used in the initial stages of most conditions, especially when there is a fever, as it aids in oxygen distribution to the tissues of the body. Throbbing, beating, pulsating, burning, sharp, or stitching pain. Ear pain after wet or cold exposure.
Nothing pleases child. Ear pain may start in L ear and move to R. Wants to be covered with blankets. Sensitive to touch and smallest draft.
Child is weepy, wants attention, desires fresh air. > warmth. Illness often appears after being chilled, after being hot or after getting ear wet. Redness and swelling in external ear, throbbing pain – severe.
Acute and chronic otitis media and serous otitis. Long, persistent cases of otitis and otorrhea, often with hearing loss.
It has been said that ear pain is one of the most common reasons for parents to bring their children in to see a doctor, and this has been true in my practice. The good news is we have plenty of naturopathic treatments to use which effectively treat and prevent ear infections. Effective treatment means happy children, which leads to grateful parents, which leads to a more successful practice.
Anja Lindblad, ND earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. Her passion in medicine revolves around women’s and children’s health, especially during the childbearing years. She works with couples from pre-conception counseling through postpartum and pediatric care. Her practice is located in the East Bay area of San Francisco, California.