Does your child complain of earache?

By Dr Sandra Cabot

Earache can vary from slight to severe and it can be hard to diagnose the cause in a screaming child. Your doctor will look inside the external ear canal with an auriscope to view the ear drum (tympanic membrane) which encloses the side of the middle ear cavity.

Ear pain is most commonly caused by infection and inflammation in the middle ear. The middle ear contains three small bones, and the eardrum lies between the middle ear and outer ear.

Inflammation and mucus cause a build up of pressure in the middle ear. This can be caused by infection with a virus or bacteria. The most common bacteria to infect the middle ear are Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae. These unhealthy bacteria come from the nose, throat and skin. If there is yellow pus in the middle ear this is due to a bacterial infection and antibiotic drugs will be required however viral infections do not respond to antibiotic drugs.

To relieve ear pain paracetamol is prescribed but may not be that effective because the pain is localised to the ear. I like to let parents know about ear drops called Auralgan which contain Benzocaine, a local anaesthetic and Phenazone, an analgesic to provide effective relief of the pain caused by middle ear infection. Other ear drops available contain the antibiotic drug Ciprofloxacin and the steroid Dexamethasone combination and can be very effective in fighting infection and swelling. Your doctor will advise what is the most suitable ear drop.

If the build up of mucus does not go away the condition of glue ear can develop and cause hearing loss and discomfort. It is important to consult an ear nose and throat specialist for glue ear.

If your child keeps getting ear infections and ear mucus it is important to strengthen their immune system.

Things to consider include –

  • Possible food allergies causing inflammation and mucus and you may find improvement if you exclude dairy products from their diet. In some children gluten can also promote excess mucus production.
  • Try to include some fresh garlic in their mashed vegetables.
  • Nutrient deficiencies including vitamins, minerals and protein. Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in the winter months. Supplementing can strengthen the immune system.
  • Use an oil diffuser in the bedroom with some tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil to purify the air.

Onion home remedy

Chop a white onion into small pieces and place in the bottom of a sock. Put the socks on your child’s feet when they sleep. Onions are rich in sulphuric compounds, and placing them on the feet allows these compounds to absorb into the body where they kill bacteria and viruses and purify the blood.

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