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Why does my child have an ear infection?

People are often curious as to why we so frequently see ear infections in babies and kids. Let’s travel back to your child’s birth, because that is where the most common injuries to the upper neck, brainstem, and cranial areas occur. Whether a vaginal or cesarean birth, the process often places an extraordinary amount of stress on your baby’s spine and cranium. The more interventions employed during labor and delivery (induction, forceps, vacuum, C-section), the more stress on the baby.

When there is strain, tension, pressure, and pulling placed on a baby’s head and neck during the birth process, it very commonly leads to a subluxation. A subluxation consists of three parts: misalignment, fixation, and nerve interference/irritation. All three of these components play a role in ear infections via their influence on both fluid movement through the ear canal, and immune system function.

Other stressors, in addition to birth, that may affect your child’s health include in utero constraint, falls, car seats, formula, processed foods, cleaning products, and communication challenges. The physical stressors, like falls, often lead to the misalignment/fixation/nerve interference complex of a subluxation. In addition, the nervous system processes all of these stressors the same way, shifting into sympathetic or fight-or-flight dominance, and shifting away from parasympathetic function that is essential for rest, digestion, growth, and healing.

Pediatricians typically point to the more horizontal positioning of the Eustachian tubes in childhood as the sole cause of viral  and bacterial ear infections, as they do not allow for sufficient drainage, thereby creating a breeding ground for infections; many times causing a middle ear infection. While that is anatomically accurate, movement of the structures connected to the Eustachian tubes, as well as immune system function, both play equal if not greater roles in ear health.


Antibiotics for ear infections

Research has shown for decades that antibiotics don’t work well for ear infections, and that they come with a slew of short term effects (stomach pain and diarrhea) as well as long term complications (allergies, asthma, antibiotic resistance). In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued updated clinical practice guidelines, offering more rigorous diagnostic criteria (to differentiate between teething, fluid in the ear, a virus, and a bacteria), recommending a wait and watch approach, and encouraging ear infection prevention through breastfeeding. Regardless, antibiotics continue to top the list of pharmaceutical prescriptions.

Ear tubes (Myringotomy)

When antibiotics fail time and time again, pediatricians typically recommend putting tubes into the offending ear. Given that the tubes lie in an unnatural hole cut into the eardrum, they often allow for excessive drainage into the throat and sinuses, leading to swollen tonsils and adenoids, and strep and sinus infections. At this point surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids is commonly suggested; after which the fluid continues to drain down into the chest and lungs. This oftentimes leads to asthma and allergies; which can then be medicated with bronchodilators, steroids, and antihistamines.

Ear infection relief: How does chiropractic care help?

Chiropractic care for ear infections addresses all three components of the subluxation. Specific adjustments to the bones of the cranium and vertebrae restore proper alignment and motion of the bones and their attached muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia and lymph ducts. This facilitates drainage of the Eustachian tubes, and is a much more natural remedy for ear infections than antibiotics, or ear tubes. Furthermore, the chiropractic adjustment brings balance to the nervous system by removing nerve interference that compromises immune system function. Specifically, the vertebrae in the upper neck correlate with immune activity in the nearby brainstem.

In addition to chiropractic adjustments, your doctor at First Step in St. Louis may recommend nutritional supplements, homeopathics, dietary changes, and/or other lifestyle changes, depending on your child’s history and exam findings. You will be provided with an abundance of information and support to help you achieve lasting health for your child by preventing recurring ear infections.