Natural ways to reduce kids' ear infections

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new guidelines for the use of antibiotics to treat ear infections in infants and children.

Related: Doctors issue new guidelines to treat ear infections 

Middle ear infections are the most common infection for which antibiotics are prescribed for children in the United States. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, the new recommendations hope to decrease the amount of antibiotics prescribed while pairing a ‘watch and wait’ approach with the use of over-the-counter pain relievers.

According to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, ear infections are the most commonly diagnosed childhood illness in the U.S., with more than three out of four kids having at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old.

Many ear ‘infections’ are not actually infections, but fluid that has built up behind the eardrum, which may or may not lead to an infection if left untreated. Parents have many at-home options to help prevent fluid build-up.

For starters, never insert a Q-tip® or anything else into the ear canal in an attempt to clean the ears. Doing this could actually push any present earwax farther into the ear canal and cause even more pressure and fluid build-up.

Dr. Frank McGhee, a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Hospital recommends warming olive oil to body temperature and using two or three drops in each ear every few weeks to keep ears clean by breaking down ear wax.

Frequent massage behind the ear and down the side of the neck can keep fluid moving through the lymph nodes and out of the ears. Use light pressure all the way down the neck and focus on any areas that feel swollen to encourage any stagnant fluid to move.

A good way to remember is to make this part of your nursing routine and massage both sides while breast or bottle-feeding.

Stick to a natural diet and eliminate or drastically reduce processed foods. Sugar (as well as artificial coloring and flavorings) can lead to a decreased immune system, which will in turn make the child more prone to illness and infections and slow down healing time.

Breastfed babies typically have fewer ear infections than bottle-fed babies. This is due not only to the antibodies in the breast milk, but also to the forward suckling action and possibly even the difference in positioning. Breastfeeding mothers should be sure to get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and talk to their doctors about incorporating a daily dose of probiotics to help keep their infants’ immune systems strong.

It’s important to remember that you should always talk to your doctor, or your child’s pediatrician, before making any dietary or lifestyle changes for the treatment of ear infections or other illnesses. He or she can recommend the best course of action and help guide you in your quest to keep your family healthy.