Childhood Ear Infections

(Content provided from House Calls Magazine)

Most parents of toddlers are all too familiar with otitis media (OM), more commonly referred to as an ear infection. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 75% of children experience at least one episode of otitis media by their 3rd birthday while almost half of those children will have had three or more infections. The medical costs to treat otitis media and lost wages due to the disease are estimated to be in the billions of dollars annually. Ear infections are the number one reason children are taken to the pediatrician.

What is a Ear Infection?
Otitis media is an infection or inflammation in the middle ear that occurs in one of two ways. The first, an acute ear infection is  accompanied by pain and fever. This is most prevalent during winter months, when upper respiratory virus infection (the common cold) is widespread among infants and young children. The common cold often causes inflammation and swelling of the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear cavity to the nose and throat.

The Institute is looking for natural ways to help the body fight off an ear infection instead of using antibiotics.

More About Ear Infections
The Eustachian tune is shorter and smaller in children than adults and more vulnerable blockage. Poor Eustachian tube funcation creates a high negative pressure in the middle ear, which promotes entry of resident bacteria to the middle ear cavity. These bacteria cause an acute infection, resulting in pain, fever and fluid accumulation in the middle ear.

The second instance, otitis media with effusion (OME), is the accumulation of flund in the middle ear space without symptoms of an acute ear infection. This generally follows treatment of an acute ear infection with antibiotics. Evidence suggests that when dead bacteria or bacterial toxins can cause and sustain chronic inflammation and fluid accumulation.
What are the symptoms of Otitis Media with Effusion
Unlike children with an acute ear infection, children with OME are not sick. Because there are no symptoms or signs of inflammation, this condition can go unnoticed. Parents may find the TV volume is too loud or a teacher may see that the child is not paying attention in class.
Risk Factors for Contracting Otitis Media
A primary risk factor is a family history of otitis media. If otitis media runs in a child's family, that child is five times more likely to be susceptible to the disease.
Ear Infections Left Untreated
On rare occasions, otitis media left untreated can cause permanent hearing loss. Usually hearing loss is temporary and the child's hearing is restored when the infection clears up. Most children outgrow the tendency to develop otitis media by the time they are seven or eight years old.
What Research Is Being Conducted for Childhood Ear Infections?

David Lim, M.D. studies childhood middle ear infections, known as otitis media. His laboratory at the House Research Institute researches the pathogenesis of otitis media, including bacteria-host cell interactions, cell signaling, host-innate immune responses, mechanisms of the inner ear inflammatory response to otitis media pathogens, and the development of an innovative strategy to treat or prevent otitis media using antimicrobial innate immune molecules.

"We do not fully understand the interaction between the bacteria and the host cell in otitis media (OM)," said House Research Institute scientist David Lim, M.D., whose lab focuses on OM research.

"One area of our research is focused on how bacteria interact with the host cell in the middle ear. We are trying to identify the natural defense mechanisms that enable the ear to fight off infection," said Lim.

Lysosome, a protein found in egg white, tears and other secretions, may provide a natural antibacterial defense mechanism against otitis media. Sold at health food stores as a digestive aid, lysosome is rarely used to fight infection. The protein works by breaking down polysaccharide that is found on the cell walls of many bacteria, making it easier for white blood cells to surround the bacteria and stop an infection. It is still in an early test tube phase, Dr. Lim is hopeful that the research results may lead to a non-antibiotic treatment for ear infections.

"Although the delievery method has yet to be tested, in the future we may be able to give lysosome to children who are at high risk for developing otitis media," he said.

Learn more about our otitis media research studies here

The information above is provided as general information. It should not be substituted for actual medical advice.

The Care Center does not see patients with ear infections. If you would like to schedule an appointment related to pediatric ear infections please contact:
House Clinic
(213) 483-9930