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**Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will talk about Prevention which will include foods to avoid and more!**
Our Sunday morning was hijacked by the right ear of my 3-year old daughter and her first acute ear infection. It is common knowledge amongst our friends and family that our family trusts in nature, food and our bodies for healing. So whenever one of my kids comes across some form of illness people always ask me “so, what did you do?”. I’m often asked to “put it somewhere” so they can find it without having to text me when that particular ailment casts it evil spell on their family. So today, I am writing it here, in hopes of you finding it when you need it.
As many of you know, ear infections are often not treated with antibiotics any longer. I’m no doctor but my understanding is that most ear infections aren’t really that. The American Academy of Pediatrics has set out new guidelines for diagnosing ear infections because in the past they have been “over-diagnosed”. It seems that any sign of red through an otoscope warranted an “infection label” when sometimes the red bulging tympanic membrane could have just been fluid that was not draining well — not necessarily an infection. Further, most ear infections are viral in nature and won’t respond to antibiotics, instead these antibiotics can cause an ear infection. Some studies have shown up to a 600% increase in the rate of recurrence when antibiotics are used in the treatment of chronic ear infections. Furthermore, other studies have found that ear tubes were no more effective than a placebo in preventing the recurrence of ear infections.
Anyways, there is a lot of information about this online. Just google it or ask your doctor, it seems that this is mainstream thinking nowadays. Where I come in is with the not-so-mainstream approach of handling it. We don’t turn to Children’s Tylenol or anything of the likes. Here is what we did this morning to relieve my crying, fussy little girl who was in terrible pain with a bulging, flaming red something or other in her ear (like I said, I’m no doctor but I can use an otoscope with the best of them!)
Garlic & Mullein Ear Oil
I am a crazy evangelist of garlic and mullein ear oil! And, I have just learned that two double-blind studies support this use (source 1, source 2). Garlic is anti-viral making it a nice alternative to antibiotics, which only cover bacterial infections. Garlic also contains alliin and allinase which provides a natural anesthetic that can provide some relief while it deals with the “infection”. Alliin is an odorless substance found in garlic that when crushed or cut releases an enzyme called allinase which when put in contact with alliin turns into allicin. Allicin is responsible for much of the typical odor of garlic. It is very active chemically and helps the garlic bulb defend itself from attack by insects and other threats. However, allicin is unstable, and soon breaks down into a variety of other substances. Therefore, garlic powder won’t have any alliin or allicin left by the time it is purchased so you need to use the real deal to help with your ear infection!
You can buy ear oil online (there are many available, we have tried many but currently have this) or in your local health food store but you can also make your own. I like to add a little lavender oil to my mix. This is the only oil that I use that can go directly in the ear in a diluted state.
We warm our oil in a glass of hot water and then put a few drops in one ear and then place a cotton ball in. We have the child lie as long as we can keep them down with the oiled ear up until we treat the other side. We always treat both sides even if only one ear hurts.
Epsom Salt Sock
After we have put the ear oil in we place a warmed sock that is filled with epsom salt, which has anti-microbial properties, on or just under the ear. Pressing the sock to the infected ear helps get the lymphatic fluid moving and draws fluid out which reduces swelling and pressure in the ear.
Years ago I took many aromatherapy courses and I have since continued using it in all aspects of life. My favourite essential oil for the ear is cajeput. I like to mix this in a carrier oil with eucalyptus and lavender and massage the outside of the ear, jaw and neck in a downward direction and gently in front of the ear toward the cheek. Other oils that can be used are rosemary, oregano, chamomile, ti tree and thyme. Use 5 drops of essential oil in 20ml of carrier oil (you can use olive oil, fractionated coconut oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, etc.)
I am not a proponent of using essential oils internally unless you are working with a registered aromatherapist.
NOTE: It is important to use high quality essential oils for them to be effective.
If one of my children is very irritable and having trouble calming down I turn to Rescue Remedy for Kids. Today, my daughter could not stop crying and I gave her a squirt, she stopped, put her head on me and was asleep within a minute. Now, those were some great results — it’s not usually that night and day — but it helped her today.
After a nice long nap…she woke like the morning hadn’t happened.
Other Home Remedies
There are other home remedies that you can try but after going through four kids with ear infections here and there, I have found the above combination works perfectly. If you are interested in some others here is the quick of it:
If my children had chronic ear infections I would bring them to the chiropractor as adjustments are said to work wonders. Here is an article from the American Chiropractic Association http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=69
The theory is that the fumes from the onions which are a natural cleanser will go into the ear canal and help unblock them. They also go through the sinus cavities, so this can also be used with a really severe sore throat to help cleanse the system. The basics are to put a halved warmed onion as a compress on your child’s ear or drip a few drops of onion juice in their ear. It’s easy to find specific instructions online.
Herbal tinctures and teas are also a great alternative for pain management. A couple of my favourites are passion flower and valerian root drops to relax your child and help relieve pain.
Breast feeding babies is also an effective way to help prevent chronic ear infections. Babies that have been breast fed for four or more months have a reduced risk of developing chronic ear infections for about 12 months after breast feeding ends. Whether this is due to a reduction in food allergies or protective factors in the breast milk has yet to be determined. While I was nursing, I would express and put a few drops of milk in my children’s ear to help ease their ear ache.
When to See A Doctor
The “Basic rule of thumb for parents is: Don’t call the doctor for an antibiotic unless the child has a fever over 102 degrees or severe symptoms of cough, runny nose and ear pain, . . . Instead, a parent can safely wait 48 to 72 hours, giving pain medicine as needed, and watching to see if those symptoms simply go away. If the fever rises or the cough and runny nose last for several days, that’s when the child needs to visit the doctor for a full evaluation.”
STAY TUNED: There is only one thing more important than treating an ear infection and that is prevention. I’ll be posting my recommendations imminently. And of course, this will include food!
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In January 2013 I realized I needed to do something to improve my health. I spent 2012 on maternity leave and often neglected taking care of my own health (sleepless nights and caring for a tiny human will do that!). Not to mention the many years before that where health was at the bottom of my list of priorities. Luckily, I discovered Lisa's 30 day green smoothie challenge. The recipes were incredible and a green smoothie drinker was born! But I didn't stop there. Starting each day in such a healthy way led me to consult with a naturopath (it would have been Lisa if we were in the same city), do an elimination diet, and discover that I have sensitivities to wheat and milk. I changed to a whole foods-based diet (most of the time) and took up running. In the span of 8.5 months I went from being tired and sluggish on the couch (literally - I could run for one minute at a time before having to walk) to having enough energy to run the Detroit International Half Marathon. I actually RAN the whole thing! And I lost almost 60lbs along the way! Thank you, Lisa, for being my catalyst. Your challenge kept me interested in a new way of living and saved me! I continue to drink a green smoothie every day for breakfast. What a wonderful way to start each day!
Thank you thank you thank you!!!
Imogen Meloche Windsor, Ontario