Can Alternative Medicine Help Cure Ear Infections?

Some treatment guidelines recommend watchful waiting in low-risk children who develop ear infections and generally ignore or exclude complementary and alternative medicine use, even in countries that embrace these methods.

Some treatment guidelines recommend watchful waiting in low-risk children who develop ear infections and generally ignore or exclude complementary and alternative medicine use, even in countries that embrace these methods.

Parents of children with otitis media sometimes see complementary and alternative medicine as adjunctive therapy, but most health care providers wonder if these treatments are effective.

Parents may turn to complementary and alternative medicine for the following reasons:

· To personalize care for their sick child.

· In response to disappointment with conventional medicine.

· Pursuant to personal or professional recommendations.

· After previous experience is successful.

Providers recommending complementary and alternative medicine options are discouraged by the fact that fewer than 5% of US government-studied therapies found these methods to be effective.

The February 2016 issue of the journal Medicine included a systematic review that surveyed studies related to pediatric otitis media patients who use complementary and alternative medicine. The review authors searched English-language randomized controlled trials, prospective and retrospective studies, and case reports.

The researchers determined that acupuncture’s efficacy is difficult to gauge because all human studies identified were in languages other than English. Homeopathy studies produced mixed to positive results, but their methodologies were generally weak.

Osteopathy, particularly manipulation of the mandible and Rosenmuller’s fossa (pharyngeal recess), can open the Eustachian tube and reduce symptoms. In addition, probiotics delivered either intranasally or systemically may prevent acute otitis media recurrence by inhibiting pathogen colonization and enhancing mucosal immunity.

However, chiropractic medicine and vitamin D appear to be marginally effective at best. Meanwhile, ear candling is fundamentally dangerous and ineffective because it can burn the ear, plug the ear canal with candle residue, and cannot “cleanse the blood through negative pressure,” as supporters have theorized.

Providers are wary of even conservative complementary and alternative medicine because most studies are confusing and low in methodological quality. As a result, acupuncture, homeopathy, osteopathy, and probiotics are promising areas of research for future randomized controlled trials in pediatric mild to moderate acute otitis media cases.