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Ear infection treatment: Do alternative therapies work?
Alternative ear infection treatments aren't generally recommended for use in children — some have dangerous effects or may interfere with conventional treatments.By Mayo Clinic staff
You may find many alternative ear infection treatments on the Internet and in books and magazines. They include chiropractic adjustments and homeopathy, among others.
You might seek out alternative ear infection treatments for several reasons, such as concern about overusing antibiotics or a dislike for their side effects. Or you may find that conventional medicines offer little relief.
In most cases, however, researchers haven't studied alternative ear infection treatments adequately using widely accepted scientific methods. For this reason, alternative ear infection treatments aren't generally recommended for use in children.
Homeopathy and chiropractic care are two therapies that have been studied — with mixed results — as ear infection treatments.
- Homeopathy treatment for ear infection is controversial. It involves using highly diluted preparations of natural substances, typically plants and minerals, to treat symptoms of illness. Study results have been mixed, and it remains unclear whether this treatment is of any benefit. Many such products aren't monitored and are subject to limited regulatory oversight by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Chiropractic treatment is another alternative therapy that has been tested as an ear infection treatment. Proponents of chiropractic manipulation claim that by using specific techniques, this treatment helps drain fluid from the middle ear and promotes better ventilation of the narrow passageway (eustachian tube) that connects the middle ear to the nose. Though some people believe this approach to be helpful, long-term studies haven't verified its effectiveness.
Before your child uses an alternative ear infection treatment, be sure to:
- Learn about treatments. Understand your options and what's involved. Find out what benefits their practitioners claim the treatments provide and the potential risks or side effects.
- Find out exactly what the treatment costs. Some alternative therapies aren't covered by medical insurance.
- Assess the credentials of anyone who advocates alternative medicine. Gather information from a variety of sources and evaluate the information carefully.
- Tell your doctor. If you decide to use an alternative therapy, it's important to tell your doctor. Some treatments — such as herbal supplements — may alter the effect of other therapies or medications. Others may create dangerous drug interactions.
- CAM use and children. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/children/D383_BKG.pdf. Accessed Feb. 5, 2011.
- Homeopathy: An introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy/. Accessed Feb. 4, 2011.
- Thompson EA, et al. The use of homeopathic products in childhood: Data generated over 8.5 years from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2010;16:69.
- Kemper KJ, et al. The use of complementary and alternative medicine in pediatrics. Pediatrics. 2008;122:1374.