Any parent of a child who has suffered an ear infection knows how painful and distressing a condition it can be. Middle ear infection (Otitis Media) is a common problem, which can affect anyone, but particularly babies and young children. This is because children have a shorter Eustachian tube (the tube that travels from the middle ear to the throat), which becomes clogged with mucous and causes bacteria to breed and infect the middle ear.
There are various types of ear infections, which require different homeopathic treatments accordingly – there is no one homeopathic remedy for them all. The cases below show how four different ear infections were treated, and how homeopathic treatment can resolve infections more effectively than antibiotics.
Another feature of these cases is that they show the difference between acute and constitutional (chronic) homeopathic prescribing. An acute prescription resolves an immediate problem, such as a child’s middle ear infection, but may not act deeply enough to stop the problem from returning in the future. A constitutional, or chronic, prescription gets to the root of the problem to correct the imbalance that allowed the ear infection to occur in the first place. It involves slightly longer treatment but permanently improves the child’s overall health. Two of the cases you will read needed the same remedy for both their acute and constitutional prescriptions while the other two need a different remedy for each one..
Following these cases are some tips on how to avoid middle ear infections and how to relieve the pain and discomfort should your child develop one.
Case 1 – Ben, the Boy Who Needed Belladonna
Ben was a six year old boy whose mother brought him to the clinic after a night of screaming from ear pain. She said his temperature had been very high – 39.8 C, his right ear bright red and his eyes “glassy”. He had been very angry with the pain, hitting his head with his hand and shrieking at his mother. When she tried to lay him down to calm him, he complained that the pain was worse.Ben’s mother explained that this problem had occurred several times through each of the three previous winters and always at night. She was tired of buying antibiotics that only helped for a short time. Within a couple of weeks of finishing a course, Ben would have another ear infection. I could see that his ear was still red and he told me that it was sore, but not as bad as the night before. A further inspection showed that his ear-drum was red and bulging. I helped Ben to describe the type of pain, which we decided was a throbbing pain.
I sent Ben’s mother home with the homeopathic remedy, Belladonna, and instructions to repeat it as often as every two hours if needed at the onset of ear pain. That night, she gave him one dose when Ben again woke screaming with the pain. Within ten minutes he was back to sleep, only to wake a few hours later with returning pain. On repeating the dose, Ben slept until morning. Ben needed only one more dose the following night and thereafter had no more episodes of ear pain.
Belladonna treats a range of chronic and acute problems when the symptoms confirm its selection. Acute bouts usually happen suddenly, with red, hot inflammations and throbbing pains. They mostly occur on the right side of the body and ear infections are always worse at night. High temperature and dilated pupils are also common. People needing Belladonna always have worsening head and ear symptoms on lying down – they feel much better sitting up, so that the blood pressure can reduced in the head. Apart from middle ear infections, Belladonna can also treat types of migraine, sinusitis, arthritis, and high blood pressure, when the symptoms correspond.
Ben did well on his acute treatment with Belladonna. At another appointment and after taking a more complete case history, I found that Ben’s “constitutional” remedy – the remedy that would improve his overall health and resistance, was homeopathic Sulphur. Sulphur is often called the “chronic” of Belladonna, and Belladonna known as the “acute” of Sulphur. Belladonna acted well for Ben’s acute episodes of ear infection but could not prevent him from getting them each winter. After constitutional treatment with homeopathic Sulphur, Ben never again got an earache.
Case 2 – Ruby, the Girl Who Needed Pulsatilla
Four year old Ruby had been unsettled with ear pain for about three days. She had become grizzly and whiney, only happy if cuddled by her mother. She had a slightly raised temperature. Instead of having a healthy white sheen, her ear drum was dull in colour and bulging.Ruby had been taken to a GP who had diagnosed a middle ear infection. He was reluctant to give antibiotics, claiming that many ear infections, being viral, did not respond to antibiotics and that most ear infections resolved in the same amount of time, whether given antibiotics or not. This was true, but it did not help to find a ‘quick fix’ solution for Ruby.
Ruby’s cheeks were flushed and red. Her mother said that she reacted badly to warm rooms and heaters. Surprisingly, Ruby seemed much happier and less bothered by the pain if she was taken to cooler rooms and even out into the cold winter air!
I gave Ruby a prescription of Pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy prepared from the Wind Flower. Ruby required five doses of Pulsatilla over the next two days, during which time she became much happier, less clingy and stopped complaining of ear pain.
Pulsatilla is a remedy that treats symptoms where a child or adult has very strong cravings for love and affection. They will often say they feel alone and unloved even though this may not be true. They will openly cry from this strong need for affection and as children will want to be carried gently and tenderly. They find heat and stuffy rooms unbearable and feel much better for cool, open air. Children or adults in a “Pulsatilla state” can suffer from migraine, yellow-green conjunctivitis, stomach upsets from fatty food (even though they may crave them), coughing and asthma, arthritic pains, and complaints from hormonal changes. Middle ear infections in children usually develop from a cold and are almost always worse at night.
Ruby required ongoing treatment with homeopathic Silicea once her ear problems were resolved. People who develop Pulsatilla “acutes” will often need Silicea at a deeper constitutional level to achieve long-lasting improvement in health. This was the case with Ruby and with ongoing treatment she went on to be a robust and independent little girl.
Case 3 – Kurt, the Boy Who Needed Hepar Sulph
Eight year old Kurt suffered from tonsillitis several times a year, especially during winter. Usually he would develop an acute ear infection with the tonsillitis. The pain would be intense, waking him from sleep at night and often causing him to scream. His mother said that he would also have problems during cold winter days, especially if he did not keep his head warm. Kurt would travel to school with a beanie pulled down over his ears. At night he would sleep with the covers well over his head – if an ear was exposed to the cold night air, it could trigger intense stabbing pains.When unwell, Kurt would become irritable and surly. Along with the tonsils, the glands in his throat would swell and his mother confirmed that he would develop an “old cheese” smell around his head. Any infections, whether colds, tonsillitis, ear infections or cuts would take “forever” to resolve and Kurt seemed to be ultra sensitive to any pain from them.
Kurt was given the homeopathic preparation of Hepar Sulph. Because Kurt’s symptoms of glandular swelling, easy infection and slow healing indicated that he was in a chronic Hepar sulph state and that his ear problems were just acute manifestations of the larger problem he was commenced on a constitutional dosage regime of Hepar Sulph. Over the coming weeks Kurt’s mother reported that his general health improved. He began to feel warmer and no longer needed to rug up as much, especially around his head. Small infections that normally would have persisted for weeks or months resolved rapidly. His glands went down and ear pain became a thing of the past.
Hepar Sulph is a remedy for extreme sensitivity on all levels – mental, emotional, or physical. People in a Hepar Sulph state react in a way that seems out of proportion to their illness or injury, perhaps by irritability or anxiety, or their response to pain and infection. Adults can become agoraphobic (frightened of open places). They feel chilly and worse in colder weather and will often keep their head covered even during summer. Small cuts or nicks tend to become infected and take a long time to heal. It is one of the main remedies for long-lasting croup in children and for pharyngitis leading to loss of voice in adults.
Case 4 – Kahlia, the Girl Who Needed Calcarea Carbonica
Kahlia was a four year old girl who had been placed on the grommet waiting list. Grommets are tiny tubes inserted through the ear-drum of children with “glue ear” to drain away fluid that may have collected. When this happens, the drum is once again able to vibrate freely with sound, allowing the child can hear.Kahlia had a history of repeated middle ear infections that, in spite of repeated antibiotics, had not fully cleared, leading to Kahlia having reduced hearing. Kahlia’s infections routinely occurred after having a cold. She had shown very few symptoms except for mild fevers and the occasional ear pulling.
Kahlia was described by her father as a placid but cautious child. She enjoyed staying at home with her mother and would entertain herself for hours with toys as long as she could see her Mum. She was shy with strangers and would hang back from new groups or situations until she felt comfortable and safe.
Kahlia had been slower than average in achieving her milestones as a baby and had suffered from periods of eczema. She had always been prone to a sweaty head and her hands and feet would often be cold and clammy. She loved milk and soft boiled eggs and she was plump in build.
When I first saw Kahlia she was pulling her right ear from another bout of ear infection. Her nose was running from a cold and her nasal discharge had left an excoriated area beneath her nose. Her father did not want her starting another course of antibiotics and so was looking for other options. After assessing her symptoms I started her on the homeopathic preparation of calcium carbonate, Calcarea Carbonica. Her symptoms indicated that she needed this remedy not only for her acute ear infection but also as a constitutional treatment to strengthen her overall vitality.
Calcarea Carbonica is a deep acting constitutional remedy that is needed by a significant number of babies and children. They mainly tend to be plump, tired, and have a reduced resistance to colds and infections. As babies they can be slow to sit, crawl, walk and develop teeth. Children can be clammy from sweat, especially about the head, and will often have a sour odour. Milk and eggs can be strongly desired and though the child may be strong-willed and obstinate, they will also be timid and fearful. Although Calcarea carbonica children usually tire easily, many strong and robust children can also do well on this remedy.
Adults who need Calcarea Carbonica often have reduced stamina and can feel overwhelmed by pressures of work, even though they are responsible workers. They can gain weight easily and may suffer from types of vertigo, constipation, fibroids, back weakness and arthritis.
Kahlia made excellent progress. Her father reported that it was like having a different daughter. She had much more energy and her confidence improved. Instead of hanging back from groups, she would be one of the first in to play. Best of all, the head cold resolved over 24 hours and her hearing seemed to improve. Her next ear examination and an audiometry test confirmed this to be true. – she no longer needed the grommets. With follow-up treatment with Calcarea Carbonica, Kahlia went on to be the person she was always meant to be – an inquisitive little girl with a zest for life.
Tip for Managing “Middle-of-the-Night” Ear Pain
A few drops of warmed garlic and Mullein oil in the ear will soothe pain. Garlic acts as an antibiotic and Mullein will rapidly relieve the pain. The garlic oil can be obtained by squeezing out the contents of a pierced garlic capsule. Mullein flower oil can be purchased from health food stores. Do not use if the ear-drum has ruptured or grommets are in place. Drops can be held in the ear by a small ball of cotton wool placed at the ear opening. See your homeopath as soon as possible to get a deeper acting remedy to avoid ongoing problems.
Tips for avoiding Middle Ear Infections
If bottle feeding your child, make sure you do not allow your child to feed in a lying down position. Milk pooling around the Eustachian tube provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.Milk sensitivity (and to a lesser degree, wheat sensitivity) can trigger ear problems.
Remove dairy products from the infant or child’s diet. Goat’s milk is a good substitute and is better tolerated by children. Once again, see your homeopath for a deeper treatment as the sensitivity itself is a symptom of an underlying imbalance that needs to be corrected.
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