Ear Infections (Otitis media)

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Ear Infections (Otitis media)
Ear infection.jpg

Ear Infections (Otitis media)
Causes Food Reactions, Smoking, Allergies, Infections
See Also Head, Ears, Eyes, Nose and Throat Conditions, Allergic Rhinitis
Books Books on Head, Ears, Nose and Throat Conditions
Articles Articles on Head, Ears, Eyes, Nose and Throat Conditions

Otitis media is a swelling of the middle ear caused primarily by adverse reactions to food or due to an infection. Otitis media is extremely common in children with up to two thirds of individuals under 6 experiencing chronic otitis media. Currently, otitis media is the most common reason for a pediatric visit in the United States.[1]

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. With otitis media, the most common cause is food reactions, yet there are external and environmental factors that also need to be considered.


  • The most common allergens are milk, corn, wheat, citrus, eggs, chocolate and peanut butter.[2]


  • Bottle Feeding
  • Early bottle feeding is strongly correlated with recurrent ear infections. It is unclear if this is due to cow's milk allergy, the ergonomics of bottle feeding, or the protective effect of human milk or a combination of these factors.[1]
  • Daycare
  • Attending daycare increases a child's contact with bacterial and viral causes of otitis media.[3]
  • Pacifier Use
  • Using a pacifier increases the risk of developing otitis media.[3]
  • Wood Burning Stoves
  • Exposure to wood-burning stoves is a risk factor for the development of otitis media.[1]


  • Infectious agents responsible for otitis media include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis.[3]


  • Anatomical Differences
  • The eustachian tube in younger children is shorter, wider and more horizontal which predisposes them to higher rates of otitis media.[4]

Diagnostic Testing

The diagnosis of an ear infection is generally based on a person's symptoms and by examining the ear with an otoscope. For frequent infections or infections that don't resolve further testing may be required:

  • Other Tests
  • Special diagnostic tests used to evaluate otitis media include pneumatic otoscopy and tympanometry. [3]

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Conditions related to otitis media include:[3]


Article Acute and Chronic Recurrent Oitits Media, NDNR; 2013 February

Otitis media can be subdivided into two categories: Acute otitis media (AOM) and otitis media with effusion (OME).[4]

  • Acute Otitis Media (AOM) - occurs with rapid onset, inflammation and bulging of the tympanic membrane.
  • Otitis Media with Effusion (OME)- occurs with no signs and symptoms typically seen in AOM, but middle ear effusion is present.

Common Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of otitis media include:[1][3]

  • Earache
  • Irritability
  • Fever and chills
  • Red bulging tympanic membrane
  • Tugging on ear
  • Excessive crying in children
  • Poor appetite
  • Cough
  • Fever

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • Use of locally applied heat can assist in reducing pain. This can be accomplished with a hot pack, warm oil, or warmed air blown into the ear with a straw.[1]
  • Individuals prone to otitis media should avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.[5]


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Dietary recommendations
  • Identify and eliminate food allergies and food sensitivities. The most common allergens are milk, corn, wheat, citrus,eggs, chocolate and peanut butter.[2]
  • Strengthen the immune system by avoiding over-consumption of sugar.[2]
  • Ensure you drink adequate water.
  • Postural differences between bottle and breast-feeding may partially account for the increased risk of otitis in bottle fed infants. [6]

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for otitis media include:

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture have been approved by the World health Organization to treat acute and chronic otitis media.[5]
  • Osteopathy- osteopathy can be effective in the prevention and treatment of otitis media.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Murray MT, Bongiorno PB (2006) Pizzorno Textbook of Natural Medicine 3rd ed Chap 197 Otitis Media Elsevier.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Murray Michael (1996) Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally Prima Publishing.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Ramakrishnan K (2007) Diagnosis and Treatment of Otitis Media, Am Fam Physician 76(11);1650-8.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Casselbrant ML, Mandel EM (2010) Flint: Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery 5th ed Chap 194 Acute Otitis Media and Otitis Media with Effusion Mosby.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Shapiro M (2007) Rakel: Integrative Medicine 2nd ed, Chap 18 Otitis Media Saunders.
  6. Oudesluys-Murphy AM, Semmekrot BA (2004) Otitis media The Lancet;363(9417):1324-1325.
  7. Hoffman D (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine Healing Arts Press
  8. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  9. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth 1997, Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing