Have you ever heard the story about how someone learned how to prepare a certain kind of roast by cutting the ends off? Then when someone asked her why, she said- I don’t know, that’s what my mom did. And then that’s what the grandma did. And when she finally asked the grandma why, she said, “because I didn’t have a pan big enough to fit the roast.”
The point of the story being, we do what we know, even when we don’t know why. Even when it doesn’t make sense.
It isn’t an exact fit (kind of like the roast) but the same is true for what parents expect and are told about ear infections. That they are just part of childhood, all kids get them. They grow out of them.
Ear infections are getting passed off the way ADD and ADHD diagnosis’ are glossed over- we are so used to them that we don’t stop and say, but why? We just treat them on the surface, and move on.
In the process of protecting and ridding the body of pathogens, the immune system isolates, encapsulates, and discharges material. One of the primary ways this happens is through mucous and pus, and the pathways are lungs, nose, and- you guessed it!- the ears. This is true for routine colds that can go to the ears if the child is susceptible and the body is not able to keep it at a more superficial level, i.e. just a runny nose. Is is also true for when the body needs to deal with foreign matter from vaccinations. Of course, when the doc rushes in with antibiotics for an ear infection then the immune system is suppressed.
Suppression is temporary- the infection will come back, because the job was not done. Or, if it is continually shut down then the body will find another way and after suppression, it will be deeper in the body and can be more serious.
There is a huge fear of a ruptured membrane, but ironically, proactively rupturing the membrane is also done to relieve pain- the pressure is often excruciating. The ear drum will heal; a natural and spontaneous rupture is OK and should have no long term effects. Also, a natural skin break heals better and stronger than a straight cut (think episiotomy!).
Ear infections are not any kind of natural rite of childhood. Not all children get them. And tubes and antibiotics are not the only treatment for them. Oh- and they hurt like craaaazzzzzy!!!
*Of course* you want to treat them! Your kid is crying and whining and clingy and in pain! The parent is exhausted, nerves frayed, worried for the child, and sad because her ear/s hurt so bad.
Treating ear infections with homeopathy is best done in a two prong approach- have the child treated constitutionally (which means, a nice long intake where he or she is given a remedy that is individual to her and her behavior, patterns of illness, family history, etc…), and then acutely, if necessary, when an infection comes about.
Because as I said above, not all children get ear infections. This is an expression of the child’s susceptibility (for example, another child may not get ear infections, but gets bronchitis every winter). By giving the child a constitutional remedy, his or her vital force (the unique energy inside all of us) is ‘tuned and strengthened’ so to speak. She will be less likely to get an ear infection, will get them less frequently and they won’t be as serious.
Acute treatment- for when an infection develops- will support the immune system. An appropriate remedy can help shorten the duration of the illness, soothe the pain, and assist the body to get the job done.
I can’t treat a child constitutionally through my blog- if only I could! But I can offer up these remedies that you can have on hand. Remember that every child is unique, and these are only a few of the *many* remedies that have an affinity for otitis media (ear infections)…but they are often, and well indicated.
Choosing a remedy:
Homeopathic prescribing is based in the law that ‘like cures like’- that is a substance that can cause an illness in a healthy person, can cure someone who has those symptoms naturally. You are matching the ‘remedy picture’ with what you observe about the patient. Homeopathy treats the whole person, because it’s not just the ears that are sick. When choosing a remedy, you make note of the mental/emotional state, what makes the particular symptoms better or worse (heat, cold, fresh air, etc…), and the general symptoms- is the person chilly or hot? thirsty or not? restless or tired?
You will notice that some of these remedies have an affinity for one side or the other. You may have noticed that your child only gets infections in the left, or right, ear. This is not a fluke! It is an important characteristic to note and prescribe on.
Particularly indicated for young children, the child is *very sensitive* to the pain. He does not want it to be touched, or examined, or maybe even looked at! He is angry and fretful, but demanding. He may want to be carried and will often reject things he has asked for, or arch his back when crying and upset. Gentle motion and being wrapped up may slightly soothe. Physically, you may notice that one cheek is pale, while the other is red. A hot pack or warm cloth may soothe the ear. All symptoms may be worse from 9-10am, or 9-10pm, and this remedy is often indicated with teething or diarrhea as well, which may come together.
Mercurius solubilis (mercury. remember- it’s only an energetic dose!)
Mercury is indicated for ear infections that tend to be right sided, but if the other symptoms agree, don’t hesitate to give for both or the other side. It often comes with a very sore throat, with pain that radiates up to the ear- again typically right sided. The ear ache may be preceded by a typical cold with thick, yellow discharge from the nose. Likewise, there may be thick yellow, or even green discharge from the ear. It may smell offensive, and make it difficult for the child to hear. Symptoms are worse at night, and in the heat. This patient prefers cold applications to the ear, may be sweaty and have excess saliva, and/or bad breath. Mercurius patients can be ‘up and down’ like the mercury in a thermometer- sensitive to environmental changes, or moody.
Pulsatilla can be such a relief for little ones suffering who need this remedy. The tip offs for thinking of pulsatilla are yellow discharge and weepy. This is a patient who is tearful and sensitive and wants much comfort and attention. The left ear is most often affected, but it can spread to both ears and it comes about with a cold, typically. Heat and nighttime will aggravate the symptoms; this child wants cool air and will be much better in the fresh air (notice- are you opening a window for her? does she seem easier going and less fussy if you go outside?). Discharges are yellow and thick, and it can be hard to grasp any firm modalities- at times they seem fine, and other times weepy and sick. Many children benefit from pulsatilla constitutionally, and it can help both with acute and chronic ear infections, as well as when you see these symptoms in teething, or gastric disturbances.
Silica is a deep remedy and can really make a difference for children who need this constitutionally as well. Silica helps to push things out that are stuck, and so when there is an infection with thick discharge and hearing loss, this remedy will help move things along. The child may be sticking his finger into his ear and might complain about popping or cracking noises. Silica will help relieve the pain of a ruptured drum and assist healing from suppuration. The ears feel better from being warm and wrapped up- cold, drafts, wind, and blowing the nose all aggravate. In general, a child who needs silica will be the one who catches every cold and is often chilly. They ‘lack grit,’ and tend to tire easily. not want to go outside, and take a long time to heal from wounds.
For instant, stabbing pain in the ear, particularly when coming in after a day out in the cold, or wind. The ear pain will come before any inflammation– maybe just a thin, clear runny nose. Cheeks can be bright red, or one red one pale. It may come about in the night, tends to be more in the left ear. Also for high dry fevers and croup, under similar circumstances.
Belladonna is always a consideration for sudden conditions that come with pulsing, throbbing pain. Ear will appear bright red and inflamed. More often indicated for right sided pain, but may start on the right and move to the left. It’s worse around 3pm or 3am, and generally aggravated at night. Belladonna is typically indicated in robust, vital children, as opposed to silica (above).
To save you from remedy overload, I will continue with a few more remedies in a second post. If you are caught in the ear infection-antibiotic round-a-bout, keep these remedies on hand. Helping your child to overcome an ear infection naturally is a BIG WIN for the immune system. When the body is able to complete its efforts, it reinforces its own abilities, setting it up to handle whatever comes next.
All of these remedies are available at natural food stores, or online. You can follow the directions on the tube, or my typical instructions for an acute: dissolve 2-3 pellets in a small glass of water, and give two doses (teaspoons) within an hour. Then observe. If symptoms improve, re-dose if the symptoms worsen again or improvement stalls out. If you haven’t seen improvement after 3-4 doses, then reconsider your choice. Sometimes if you get a remedy that is close, but not right on, the symptoms will shift a little bit and what you need to pay attention to will be accentuated and guide you to a more appropriate choice. For example, maybe you give Aconite – but there’s no relief (which I would expect fairly quickly with an aconite condition). Your child’s face seems to become more more flushed and his energy builds and you notice that he starts to complain about his right ear, which is now flushed on the outside as well. He is excitable. This makes you think of belladonna, which brings relief.
Good luck! And let me know how it goes 🙂