Approach to Ear Infections
problems can be excruciatingly painful, especially in children.
With 10 million new cases every year, ear infections (otitis
media) are the most common illness affecting babies and young
children and the number one reason for visits to the pediatrician—accounting
for more than 35 percent of all pediatric visits.
Almost half of
all children will have at least one middle ear infection before
they're a year old, and two-thirds of them will have had at
least one such infection by age 3. The symptoms can include
ear pain, fever, and irritability. Otitis media can be either
bacterial or viral in origin, and frequently results from
another illness such as a cold. For many children, it can
become a chronic problem, requiring treatment year after year,
and putting the child at risk of permanent hearing damage
and associated speech and developmental problems.
for most cases of otitis media is with antibiotics, which
can be effective if the culprit is bacterial (antibiotics,
of course, do nothing to fight off viruses). But, according
to many research studies, antibiotics are often not much more
effective than the body's own immune system. And repeated
doses of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria that
scoff at the drugs, while leaving the child screaming in pain.
Frequent ear infections
are also the second most common reason for surgery in children
under 2 (with circumcision being the first). In severe cases—for
example, when fluids from an ear infection haven't cleared
from the ear after several months, and hearing is affected—specialists
sometimes prescribe myringotomy and tympanostomy, more commonly
known as "ear tubes." During the surgical procedure,
a small opening is made in the eardrum to place a tube inside.
The tube relieves pressure in the ear and prevents repeated
fluid buildup with the continuous venting of fresh air. In
most cases, the membrane pushes the tube out after a couple
of months and the hole in the eardrum closes. Although the
treatment is effective, it has to be repeated in some 20 to
30 percent of cases. And this kind of surgery requires general
anesthesia, never a minor thing in a small child. If the infection
persists even after tube placement and removal, children sometimes
undergo adenoidectomy (surgical removal of the adenoids)—an
option that is effective mostly through the first year after
Before yet another
round of "maybe-they'll-work-and-maybe-they-won't"
antibiotics or the drastic step of surgery, more parents are
considering chiropractic to help children with chronic ear
infections. Dr. Joan Fallon, a chiropractor who practices
in Yonkers, New York, has published research showing that,
after receiving a series of chiropractic adjustments, nearly
80 percent of the children treated were free of ear infections
for at least the six-month period following their initial
visits (a period that also included maintenance treatments
every four to six weeks).
mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can
continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent
infection, they build up their own antibodies and recover
more quickly," explains Dr. Fallon. She'd like to see
her pilot study used as a basis for larger-scale trials of
chiropractic as a therapeutic modality for otitis media.
Dr. Fallon uses
primarily upper-cervical adjustment on children with otitis
media, focusing particularly on the occiput, or back of the
skull, and atlas, or the first vertebra in the neck. "Adjusting
the occiput, in particular, will get the middle ear to drain.
Depending on how chronic it's been and on where they are in
their cycle of antibiotics, children generally need to get
through one bout of fluid and fight it off themselves."
That means, for the average child, between six and eight treatments.
If a child's case is acute, Dr. Fallon will check the ear
every day, using a tympanogram to measure the ear and track
the movement of the eardrum to make sure that it's draining.
"I'll do adjustments every day or every other day for
a couple of days if they're acute, and then decrease frequency
Dr. Fallon, whose
research garnered her the acclaim of childrearing magazines
like Parenting and Baby Talk, often sees great success when
she treats a child for otitis media. "Once they fight
it themselves, my kids tend to do very well and stay away
from ear infections completely. Unless there are environmental
factors like smoking in the house, an abnormally shaped Eustachian
tube, or something like that, they do very well," she
"I have two
large pediatric groups that refer to me on a regular basis.
In the winter, when otitis is most prevalent, I see five or
six new children each week from each group," says Dr.
Fallon. "It's safe and effective and something that parents
should try, certainly before inserting tubes in their children's
Talk to Dr. Shapero about your child's ear infections. He
is licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of
all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children.
In addition, Dr. Shapero can also prescribe exercises designed
to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction
in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.