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This one is about: Alternative Treatments for Ear Infection

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This is a section from an editorial by Michael T. Murray, ND, entitled "The emerging problem of antibiotic overuse." American Journal of Natural Medicine, Vol. 4, No. 5. The stats are people without clefts, of course, but the concepts are still valid and interesting ones. The other parts of the article list ways to prevent and treat ear infections--including value of breast milk, avoiding sugar and dairy, and especially, recognizing and treating food allergies, etc. For treatment, the article lists therapeutic use of vitamins (therapeutic doses of A and C, and minerals zinc, selenium, and managanese), hot packs, and putting something called hydroscopic glycerine (available at most pharmacies) into the ear. "This treatment helps reduce the pressure in the middle ear and promotes fluid drainage." The main idea is to support the immune system so that ear infections are rarely an issue to begin with.

IMO, doctors in the US have yet to cultivate a healthy fear of antibiotic overuse, and the result (organisms growing more and more resistant to treatment) is turning into quite a public health problem.

The article reads:

"A number of well-designed studies have demonstrated that there are no significant differences in the clinical course of acute otitis media when conventional treatments were compared with placebo. Specifically, no differences were found between nonantibiotic treatment, ear tubes, ear tubes with antibiotics, and antibiotics alone. (26-29) Interestingly enough, children not receiving antibiotics did have fewer recurrences than those receiving antibiotics. (27) This reduced recurrence rate is undoubtedly a reflection of the suppressive effects antibiotics have on the immune system.

The results of these studies, when coupled with the high rate of recurrent ear infections following insertion of ear tubes, suggest that conservative (nonantibiotic, nonsurgical) treatment alone would reduce the rate and decrease the yearly financial costs of otitis media.

Doctors scare parents into believing drugs and ear tubes are necessary to reduce the risk of the infection spreading to the mastoid and brain. Although this is of major concern, there is no evidence to document that the rate (0.2% to 2.0%) is any different with or without antibiotics, with or without myringotomy. (27)


26. Bluestone, CD: Otitis media in children:  To treat or not to treat. NEJM 306:1399-404.1982.
27. Van Buchen FL, Dunk JH, and van Hof MA:  Therapy of acute otitis media: Myringotomy, antibiotics, or neither? Lancet 2:883-7, 1981.
28. Diamant M and Diamant B: Abuse and timing of use of antibiotics in acute otitis media. Arch Otol 100:226-32, 1974.
29. Mygind N, Meustrup-Larsen KI, Thomas J, et al:  Penicillin in acute otitis media:  A double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Clin Otol 6:5-13, 1981.

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