It surprises people that we treat a TON of ear infections as pediatric chiropractors! Chiropractic care can be one conservative and safe treatment option for ear infections in you and your toddler.
The Down Low on Ear Infections
Ear infections are something that can affect anyone and they are incredibly common! In fact 80% of kids will have at least one ear infection by the time they turn 3! The most common type of ear infections in kids occurs in the middle ear, when there is fluid build up behind the ear drum.
The big player in middle ear infections is the auditory or Eustachian tube. The auditory tube connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx [back of the mouth]. It has 2 main functions : equalize pressure between the air and the middle ear, & drain mucus from the middle ear. It’s what allows your ears to ‘pop’ when you’re on a plane or driving in the mountains!
MOST commonly, we see ear infections that stem from upper respiratory or sinus infections that have spread to the ear. If the auditory tube isn’t working properly and draining fluid adequately from the ear, the stagnation can also lead to an infection. Research shows that middle ear infections tend to be viral OR a combination of viral and bacterial… more on this later!
For adults, signs of an ear infection can be quite obvious. Common symptoms of ear infection in adults are ear pain, ear fullness, muffled hearing, low-grade fevers, dizziness, and cold-like symptoms. It can be a touch more difficult to know when your babe, infant, or toddler is struggling with an ear infection. Below we have listed some of the common signs.
Top Signs of Ear Infections in Toddlers
- Irritability / crying
- Poor feeding
- Poor sleeping
- Tugging / fussing with ear
- Ear redness or redness behind ear
- Recent upper respiratory infection or sinus infection
Why Do Ear Infections Occur More in Infants?
Another component to frequent ear infections in toddlers is the orientation and functionality of the auditory tube. In babies and young children, the auditory tubes are SHORTER, MORE HORIZONTAL, and MORE NARROW. This triad makes it more difficult for the tube to drain! Additionally, tubes in infants are more flexible, so its easily squished or twisted by tight tissues and misalignments in the cranium, palate, and spinal column.
Ear infections become more likely with every sinus infection, cold, or respiratory illness your little one faces. This is why keeping your babe’s immune system in top notch shape & practicing ear drainage techniques is essential to support ear health and avoid infections.
How Do Tongue Ties Play a Role?
Tongue ties and ear infections? How could they be related??
Tethered or tied tongues are unable to rest on the roof of the mouth which is essential for the jaw and palate [roof of the mouth] to develop. What can result is a high-arched palate, crowded teeth, and compressed sinuses. The cascade then proceeds to recurrent congestions & improper swallowing. The jaws tightness and improper swallowing patterns leave the ears more susceptible to infections. Think about when you swallow, yawn, or chew— this helps clear your ears!
Tongue-tied individuals are often mouth breathers, which essentially brings on the perfect storm for ear infections. The mouth doesn’t filter the air in the same way or nearly as well as your nose can. Mouth breathing leads to more bacteria and viruses entering your body that your nose would otherwise filter. This leads to an increase in inflammation and infection in the sinuses, tonsils, and ears.
If your kiddo has chronic ear infections and you suspect a tongue or lip tie the best thing to do is have them evaluated by your pediatric chiropractor or other specialized provider [like a pediatric dentist]!
Chiropractic & Ear Infections
By now, you probably grasp that ear infections and how they develop are all about improper drainage in the middle ear. The same goes for treating ear infections naturally! We can treat and prevent infections by encouraging drainage of the auditory tube and supporting the immune system. But where does chiropractic care come in??
A pediatric chiropractor can treat ear infections with adjustments and soft tissue techniques. We specifically focus on the upper neck. There are many nerves that impact the function of the ear and auditory tube. These nerves exit the base of the skull and pass by the first and second cervical spinal segments. Adjustments in this region can help restore proper function and drainage of the auditory tube and improve ear pain. We can also ‘adjust’ the ear itself! Which ideally mobilizes the small ear bones and triggers the auditory tube to drain.
Aside from the chiropractic adjustment, we also work on the soft tissues to support muscle relaxation and lymphatic drainage. Massaging through the sides of the neck & around the clavicle can help aid in lymphatic drainage of the head and neck. We also work inside the mouth to directly impact sinus and auditory tube drainage. We focus on physically stretching a tiny muscle, the tensor veli palatini, which opens the auditory tube and helps drain any fluid. The muscle is at the back of the mouth, where soft and hard palate meet.
The video below dives into more detail on chiropractic for ear infections & solutions we recommend for home! For more details on how to drain fluid for sinus and ear congestion, check our kidz techniques!
In addition to chiropractic adjustments, Craniosacral Therapy (CST) can also be a tool used to improve lymphatic or fluid drainage from an ear infection. Our goal with treatment is to work with structures closely related to the auditory (Eustachian) tube to allow for fluid to drain out of the ear through the tube more easily. This removes substances out of the ear as well as relieves excessive pressure from inside the ear.
Craniosacral therapy is a whole body approach that uses gentle touch to release restrictions in the cranial bones of the skull. This helps reduce strain in the entire body and supports the nervous system while the body fights off infections!
Other Natural Remedies for Ear Infections in Toddlers:
Research has shown that MOST ear infections are caused by viruses or a combination of viruses & bacteria. This helps explain why most kids won’t find complete relieve from antibiotics. Our favorite natural remedies are here for you to try! If you want to browse more, look to our Kidz Ear & Sinus Relief Shopping List!
Cup Trick for Ear Infections: transfer boiling hot water to a temperature safe cup [ be sure not to fill too much! ]; Holding the cup of water upright, bring the child's head to the cup to create a seal between the ear + cup. This will help change the pressure in the ear to clear up the infection faster and also relieve painful symptoms!
Saline ear rinse : using a saline solution, rinse the ear out. Use a small amount and let the the excess solution drip out of the ear by tipping the head. You can use an ear cleaner like this one, but it's not necessary.
Garlic Mullein Oil : concentrated blend of herbs + oils which provide a natural aid for earaches. Mullein flowers have been used to improve ear health for centuries! Simple to use - just put a few drops in the ear!
Support the Immune System: probiotic, vitamin D, elderberry
Ear Drops : these are drops containing natural ingredients that can be used for immediate relief of painful + irritated ears in children!
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