Children's ear infections soar despite medical 'treatment'

Children's ear infections soar despite medical `treatment'

In 1990, ear infections -- known as otitis media -- were the second most common diagnosis among all age groups.

Although an estimated $3-4 billion is spent every year for medication and surgery, the medical profession has made absolutely no progress in treating or preventing the problem, which is most often seen in children and can result in hearing loss.

While everyone knew it was a common complaint, it wasn't until details of a recent research study were released that the American public learned just how much worse the problem has become.

According to a report published earlier this year in a pediatrics journal, there was a staggering 44% increase in recurrent ear infections among preschool children between 1981 and 1988!

The study found that in 1988, there was an estimated 5.9 million preschool children with recurrent ear infections in the United States.

One reason that medical science has failed to find an answer to ear infections is that they have for years been looking for the solution in all the wrong places. In fact, despite numerous warnings about the overuse of antibiotics, many M.D.s still routinely prescribe them for young patients with ear infections.

Not long ago, Ladies Hame Journal reported: "A child's ear infection offers a classic example of how over-treatment with antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria. For years, amoxicillin -- a penicillin-like antibiotic -- was the standard treatment for acute otitis media. However, these infections usually clear, without treatment, in two to three days."

The Journal noted, though, that "because amoxicillin has been so overprescribed, some ear infections that in the past might have responded to it no longer do. As a result, doctors are forced to prescribe one after another of stronger -- and more expensive -- medications. Furthermore, the stronger antibiotics are the broad-spectrum ones, which kill the so-called good bacteria as well as the bad, making children vulnerable to secondary infections."

A study published in the Canadian Family Physician, by Thomas Lehnert, M.D., CCFP, said that in the United States, 97.9% of children diagnosed with otitis media were given antibiotics by their doctors.

In his study, "Acute Otitis Media in Children: Role of antibiotic therapy," Dr. Lehnert concluded that there was a "definite need for antibiotics in only five-to-ten percent of acute otitis media cases." In the vast majority of cases, the condition is being over-treated, he stated.

Unfortunately, many medical doctors don't stop at pumping unneeded antibiotics into children. The other widely used treatment for otitis media, the surgical insertion of tympanotomy tubes, is no improvement.

In 1988, 670,000 of these surgeries were performed in the United States to reduce the frequency of occurrence of otitis media and the potential for resulting hearing loss.

Yet, one medical study indicates that as many as one quarter of the proposed tympanotomy tube insertions should not have been performed.

The study, "The Medical Appropriateness of Tympanotomy Tubes Proposed for Children Younger than 16 Years in the United States," published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was based on 6,611 cases.

Researchers said that for another third of the cases, there wasn't enough empirical data or expert opinion to support the likelihood of a superior outcome of the tubes over other medical therapy.

To make things worse, insertion of tympanotomy tubes can be risky. Complications include prolonged discharge from the ear, as well as tearing and permanent scarring of the eardrum, which may be associated with low-grade, long-term hearing loss.

The study published in JAMA estimated that several hundred thousand children may be affected annually. These children may run the risks associated with surgical insertion of tubes even though there is no demonstrated advantage over less invasive therapies.

After reading the most recent research, many parents are finally realizing that the medical approach to treating ear infections is not only ineffective but dangerous. In most routine cases, they are choosing instead to bolster the child's immune system through diet, behavior modification and natural health care. They are finding that following that strategy allows their children's bodies to ward off infection without invasive procedures or drugs.

SOURCES: Pediatrics electronic pages (the Internet extension of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Feb. 24, 1997.

"A spoonful of medicine: Unnecessary drugs are not only useless, they have the potential to seriously harm our children," by Margery D. Rosen. Ladies Home Journal, April 1995 v112 n4 p122(5).

"The medical appropriateness of tympanotomy tubes proposed for children younger than 16 years in the United States. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), April 27, 1994.

Canadian Family Physician, by Thomas Lehnert, M.D., CCFP, "Acute Otitis Media in Children: Role of antibiotic therapy."

The Chiropractic Journal.

Share this with your friends