By Sarah Harris

Sarah Harris N.D.

Specialist Naturopath – Holistic Nutritionist – Herbalist – Homoeopath – Remedial Therapist

Did you know that three out of four children will have at least one ear infection by their 3rd birthday?!

Ear infections are quite common and unfortunately children get them more often than adults.

As a Mum of three, who is passionate and specialised in treating children, I know first hand how much disruption and upset ear infections can be to the individual and their entire family.

In fact, ear infections are the leading cause of doctor visits by children, the most common reason for prescribing antibiotics in children and often the primary reason for childhood surgery.

With all this in mind, the wait times now existing for Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialists in Victoria are mind-boggling!

The patients on these waiting lists are commonly one or two-year-old children who can’t hear properly due to their ear infections.  This is happening at a time when young children are trying to acquire language skills. Research shows that speech and language delay in these children often results in the need for intensive speech therapy to help them catch up with their peers. (1)

These facts are quite alarming, however thankfully not all instances of ear infections may need to be referred to an ENT specialist.


Acute ear infection occurs when a pathogenic organism (such as bacteria) multiplies in the ear and produces  toxins that cause inflammation and tissue damage, therefore triggering an immune response. The resultant tissue damage and weakened immune system, predisposes the child to further infection.

Otis Media (OM) can be responsible for serious infectious complications such as, middle and inner ear damage, hearing impairment and indirect impairment of speech, language and cognitive and psychosocial development. Fortunately, most cases are not severe and are self-resolving. 

Medical treatment involves killing or inhibiting bacterial growth, using antibiotics.  Originally antibiotics were derived from natural sources (eg, penicillin from mould), but are now synthetic and modified and have numerous side effects.

Since the 1980’s, double-blind studies published in the world’s most credible of medical journals have demonstrated that there are no significant differences in the clinical course of acute OM when conventional treatments, (eg. antibiotics, ear tubes – grommets), are compared with the use of a placebo. However, children not receiving antibiotics did appear to have fewer recurrences! (2)

In a double-blind study of 171 children between 5 and 8 years old with otalgia (earache) and middle-ear infection,  patients given Naturopathic herbal medicine ear drops alone had a better response than those given ear drops and amoxycillan (antibiotics). (3)

Less frequent and less intense ear infections may be achieved when the significant risk factors responsible for the occurrence of OM are addressed.  


  • Herbal medicine has been traditionally used for the management of upper respiratory infections: More than 150 physiologically active polysaccharides found in reishi mushrooms have immune-stimulating and antibacterial properties. (4)
  • Zinc is essential for normal development and function of immune cells, affecting acquired immunity.
  • Vitamin A and D help to maintain the mucous membrane barriers, which are the first line of defence against infections, thus helping to maintain and support healthy immune function
  • Omega 3s (fish oil, flaxseeds, walnuts) support immune development and mucous membrane integrity
  • Strain specific probiotics are clinically proven to reduce the incidence and duration of upper respiratory infections in children.
  • Vitamin C can be used to reduce the severity of infections.
  • The removal of dairy foods, bananas, sugar, gluten and saturated fats helps to reduce inflammation and mucous production.
  • The incorporation of warming foods like ginger, onion, garlic, chilli, and fenugreek in the diet provide mucous reducing and immune-boosting effects.
  • Fun games to improve your child’s nose breathing rather than mouth breathing ability is key to supporting appropriate ventilation of the upper respiratory system.  The effects of these games helps to create a protective environment against future infections.

The above are just a few suggestions to consider if your child is experiencing ear soreness or infection. 

If you would like to develop a specific strategy that best suits your child please do not hesitate to make an appointment by calling our reception team on 03 5221 8220. 

I would love to help your break the cycle of ear infections that far too often disrupts children and their families.

Yours in good health,



  1. Melissa Cunningham, The Age, ‘Mind-boggling’ wait times leave Victorians suffering for years before seeing specialists’,
  2. Van Buchen, F.L., Dunk J.H., and van Hof, M.A., ‘Therapy of acute otitis media: myringotomy, antibiotics or neither?’, Lancet, 1981, 11 pp.883-7
  3. Skinner JD, Caruth BR, Wendy B et al. J. Am Diet Assoc.2002: 102 (11); 1638-1647
  4. Reishi. In: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database . Stockton (CA): Therapeutic Research Faculty; 1995-2008
Sarah Harris

Specialist Naturopath, Holistic Nutritionist, Herbalist, Homoeopath

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