There has been much in the news lately about the overuse of antibiotics, particularly for the treatment of children’s ear infections. Ear infections are the most common illness affecting babies and children, and are the number one reason for visits to the pediatrician. They can be a painful experience for the children who have them, and for the parents who want to help them. Most parents believe they only have two options for treatment: antibiotics or tubes in the ears.

One of the biggest frustrations we have seen in parents is that antibiotics seem to help, but the ear infections keep coming back. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that the use of amoxicillin, the most common antibiotic used to treat ear infections, leaves the child 2 to 6 times MORE LIKELY to get the infection again. With repeated infections, parents are often led to their next option for treatment, which is having tubes placed in their child’s ears. Again, this can provide some temporary help, but as some European studies concluded, there was no benefit from the placement, and it actually created some complications such as scarring and permanent perforation.

So what’s a parent to do? Well, there are other options. First of all, why do antibiotics and surgical tubes sometimes provide only temporary relief? Because they only treat the symptoms of the problem and do not address the cause. You see, one of the main causes of ear infections is improper drainage of the Eustachian tube, which normally drains fluid from the ear. If the Eustachian tube is blocked, fluid builds up, providing a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Antibiotics can suppress this bacterial infection, but it doesn’t address the cause, the Eustachian tube blockage. That is the problem which tubes attempt to fix, by providing a surgical hole for the fluid to drain. However, as with the antibiotics, surgical tubes don’t address why the Eustachian tube is blocked in the first place.

So what can cause a blockage of the Eustachian tubes in ears? Well, one of the known causes is a misalignment of the first bone in the neck, which distorts these tubes and interferes with normal drainage of fluid from the ears. Chiropractors are trained to locate this misalignment, which is called a spinal subluxation, and correct it through a gentle adjustment. This not only restores normal function to the Eustachian tube for proper drainage, but also removes interference to the nerve system, improving overall immune function. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics in October of 1997 looked at 400 children ranging from infants to adolescents with a history of chronic ear infections. After receiving regular chiropractic adjustments, within a 6 month follow up including maintenance visits, close to 80% didn’t have another ear infection.

Even though chiropractic is not a specific treatment for ear infections, by restoring the spine to its proper alignment, it gives a child the best opportunity to be healthy. So what can cause misalignments, or subluxations in the spines of young children? Well, in addition to all of the bumps and falls that kids experience in learning to stand and walk and run, one of the major causes of spinal subluxations is the birth process.

A study by Gutman in 1987 published in Manuelle Medizin showed that in 1250 babies examined five days after birth, 211 suffered from vomiting, hyperactivity and sleeplessness, and spinal abnormalities were found in 95% of this group. Spinal adjustment “frequently resulted in immediate quieting, cessation of crying, muscular relaxation and sleepiness”. The authors stated that an unhealthy spine “causes many clinical features from central motor impairment to lower resistance to infections – especially ear, nose and throat infections.” The authors, who were medical physicians, assert that all children should have their spines checked by chiropractors.