Childhood Ear Infections (Otitis Media)


Pediatricians commonly see children for colds and middle ear infections (otitis media). In fact, the National Center of Health Statistics claimed that during 1975 – 1990 otitis media was the most common diagnosis for physician office visits by children under age 15. It is also one of the leading reasons for a child’s visit to the chiropractic physician. Otitis media may be a new (acute) condition or a recurring (chronic) problem. There may be swelling in the middle ear. The child with Otitis media may be in pain or pain-free. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty regarding the causes, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment of otitis media in the United States.

Causes of Otitis Media

In spite of serious disagreements within the medical profession, most medical authorities believe that otitis media might be a complication or result of a cold, sinusitis, or a sore throat. Anatomically, a young child is more disposed to ear infections due to shorter eustachian tubes, which are more horizontal that those of adults. This temporary anatomical difference in a young child enables fluid to accumulate in the tubes within the middle ears, which might promote bacterial or viral pooling and growth.

Otitis Media Research

Review of the medical literature regarding treatment of otitis media makes me question the scientific validity of studies performed at medical schools within the United States. A major controversy regarding otitis media treatment has been brewing at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine for the past 20 years. Drs. Cantekin and Bluestone performed significant research at a well-respected institute within the university. Both of these scientists used the same data but published different results. How does that happen?

Dr. Cantekin, who did not receive any funding from the drug companies, claimed that the data did not demonstrate amoxicillin to be anymore effective than a placebo for the treatment of ear infections. His suggestion was that the research data indicated that a “watchful waiting” protocol was appropriate for the initial treatment of otitis media. Dr. Bluestone, who received compensation and research funding from drug companies claimed that the data indicated that the use of amoxicillin and other antibiotics were appropriate for the initial treatment of otitis media. Quite a disagreement within one institution, one that may be better understood with study of research performed outside of the United States without drug company monies. We should realize that ear infections generate close to Billion in medical costs in the United States.

Medical Doctor Treatment of Otitis Media
In the United States, nearly 98% of children under the care of a medical doctor (MD) with otitis media receive antibiotics plus other drugs and surgery. Outside of the United States, in Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands a “watchful waiting” protocol is utilized for otitis media. Only 31% of the children in the Netherlands receive antibiotics for otitis media. Dr. Cantekin maintains that “watchful waiting” is the most appropriate treatment because more than 90% of ear infections resolve within a few days without the use of antibiotics.

Chiropractic Doctor Treatment of Otitis Media

One study found that 93% of all episodes of otitis media improved with chiropractic care. Chiropractic physicians prefer to use the “watchful waiting” for the first few days plus chiropractic manipulation of the neck and eustachian tubes. In addition, some chiropractic doctors are trained in natural ENT treatments, which involve lymphatic drainage care, nutritional supplementation, and advice regarding allergens that might promote recurrent ear infections. The chiropractic profession agrees with Dr. Cantekin’s findings regarding antibiotics being no more effective than placebo treatment. This scientific approach to the treatment of otitis media agrees with the rest of the medical world except for the United States and Australia. Scientists should contest the validity of chiropractic care results for otitis media and demand additional research.


Parents and caregivers of young children should perform some personal research regarding the treatment of ear infections. Discuss your findings and opinions with the baby’s primary care providers prior to the development of otitis media. An informed and concerned parent.