Friday, April 30, 2010

ear infections

For the first time in my life I have an ear infection. In BOTH ears! Would you believe me if I told you that I think my neti pot is trying to kill me? I was having some sinus congestion so I went to do a rinse with the neti pot. I didn't tilt my head just right and the solution went all the way up into my sinuses and then I felt the dreaded splash in my eustacian tubes. That night I woke up with searing ear pain. Just awful! However, I am finding great relief in the fact that I can sit up today and am having very minimal pain.
With my own *ordeal* and a recent chat with a new friend about her daughter's ear infections, I thought I would pass on some info and resources that have been helpful to me in treating ear infections.
First off, I have to say (again), I am not a doctor. However, I have a really great pediatrician and he likes to tell me interesting facts. Like how approximately 95% of ear infections clear up on their own with no intervention. Because of this, he doesn't quickly jump to antibiotics for ear infections if he knows that the parent is pro-active and will take appropriate measures to nurse their children back to health. A former pediatrician told me that he prescribed antibiotics for ear infections most often because parents requested them. Not because he felt they were necessary (and he explained this to the parent- I don't want to make him sound negligent in any way! He is a wonderful doctor).

Actually, a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1997 found that 70% of ear infections are viral- making antibiotics useless in treating them (unless there is a secondary infection). Of the other 30% they noted that most cleared up on their own with no intervention, and few actually needed antibiotics. I feel like I need to throw in a disclaimer here about how I think antibiotics are important and useful when used appropriately. But the bottom line here, is that most ear infections do not need antibiotic treatment.

In 2003, AAP published a double blind trial using an herbal oil (infused olive oil with garlic, mullein, calendula, St. John's wort and lavender) vs. amoxicillin. The results showed an equal rate of improvement after 3 days, and beyond that, the herbs proved to be better in pain relief and sustained health. The study also showed that antibiotics alone do not improve treatment outcomes.
*This research was found while studying in my course book (written by Jessie Hawkins) for my Master Herbalist certification through Vintage Remedies.*

The ear oil that I most prefer is Mullein Ear Oil by WiseWays herbals. This stuff works fast! After one application I began feeling some relief. After 3 applications now I am feeling almost 100% (however I am going to continue using it through tomorrow).

I also take an herb internally to help with fighting the infection. I really like the line of Wish Garden herbal tinctures. For the kids I prefer the "kick-it herbal biotic". I use the adult version as well for myself at the first sign of anything coming on and usually by the morning I feel better. I never leave for a vacation without this and their "daily immune builder".

Another tool I like to have on hand is my very own otoscope. This didn't prove to very helpful with my own ears (obviously!) but I love it for the kids. When they have a runny nose, I start checking their ears, just to make sure it doesn't spread. At the first sign of any inflammation I begin using the ear oil. This usually prevents a full on infection.
The otoscope I use is made by Dr. Mom. It is really easy to use and comes with color pictures to show what ear infections look like. It's also a good idea to have your doctor let you look in the otoscope next time you're in the office to see first hand what an infection looks like. S/he can explain what you are seeing.

If at any time I feel like the ear infection has progressed further than what I can offer at home, I never hesitate to call into the pediatrician to make an appointment. Not doing so would be a matter of pride- and that's just silly!

***Note: ear oil should NOT be used in the case of a burst eardrum.***


Amanda said...

Oh, I'm sorry you've been feeling bad! But I'm glad you know how to fix it! :) I had the same trouble this spring, and put off the antibiotics as long as I could. I really need to buff up on my herbal knowledge! Thanks for the tips!

Kirby said...

I still can't believe that just hours after we were emailing back and forth that you woke up with an ear infection in both ears! Crazy!

Umm...and you are even so much cooler now that I know that you're are/going to be a Master Herbalist!! That is amazing!! So glad we're friends...maybe we should meet in person soon! ;)