It is every parent’s worst nightmare. Your child is in pain and you suspect an infection. Acute earaches and sore throats can hurt a lot. The younger the child and the more severe the pain, the more upsetting it can be for parents and child.
This is when your nurturing skills will be called upon, when your ability to be calm, reassuring and comforting may be stretched to the limit. Maybe at a time when you feel frightened and powerless, especially if this is new to you — if this is your baby’s first illness — or if your child is very distressed. Many parents who turn to their doctors for help are prescribed antibiotics for the infection and Tylenol for the pain and to bring the fever down. Unfortunately, antibiotics will only ‘work’ for bacterial infections and since so many colds, coughs, earaches and sore throats are viral in origin, this type of treatment is not going to be effective.
Homeopaths are concerned about the effects of repeated courses of antibiotics, especially on a child’s developing immune system. Because many cases of infection will subside within 24 hours, especially earaches, (whatever treatment is given) some doctors are now adopting a wait-and-see policy for children with minor, acute infections and are willing to support parents who choose TLC and alternative medicine over antibiotics. Many parents are choosing to save antibiotics for when they are really needed because of their concern over side effects: diarrhea, thrush, loss of appetite and behavioural changes are all common.
We need to approach these illnesses in our children in a way that encourages their own natural immunity.
stress and infection
It is helpful to identify the stress or stresses that led up to your child’s illness as you can then prevent future episodes and/or guide you to a good homeopathic remedy. If, for example, your child tends to get an earache after being out in a cold wind, then you can help to prevent this type of earache by making sure she wears a hat and scarf in the cold. Or have Aconite in hand for those times when she doesn’t.
Notice whether your child falls ill with a change in the weather, during the damp, cold winter months, or after getting wet in the rain. Many children have repeated infections throughout their teething years, some become ill after an accident or injury, others are vulnerable after (or even before) every single growth spurt.
A poor diet can be a serious physical stress if important vitamins and minerals are missing from your child’s diet. A diet high in processed foods, sugar, salt, fats and artificial additives (and correspondingly low in fruit and vegetables) can all make your child more vulnerable to infection.
The cutting out of dairy products can reduce the production of catarrh (in the nose or ears) for those who are sensitive to lactose but it is important that you consult your health visitor or doctor, or ask for a referral to a nutritionist or allergy specialist if you suspect that food sensitivity or allergy is contributing to your child’s poor health. Do tread carefully, however, food sensitivities are a symptom of ill health, not a cause, and cutting out an allergen will not deal with the underlying problem.
Emotional stresses can be the cause of illness even in very small children such as a shock, a parent’s distress, conflict in the home, the arrival of a new baby, the absence of a parent, a separation from their mother — including weaning, going to a childminder, especially a new one or starting school. Illness can be seen as constructive in that it may be the only way a small child can signal for help.
An earache is mostly caused by an infection of the middle ear, a tooth abscess, sinusitis or a sore throat and it can be accompanied by a cold and/or a fever. There is a build-up of catarrh in the middle ear with a middle ear infection, and it is this which causes pain as it presses against the eardrum.
The only symptom of earache in a baby may be fever and inconsolable crying. They sometimes rub one or both ears, or rubs or bang their heads, but these are common symptoms in infants who do not have an infection so there is no need to be concerned unless fever and distress are also present.
It is not the end of the world if the eardrum perforates with a subsequent discharge from the ear. It will give instant relief from pain and, provided your child is in a clean environment, the eardrum will heal well in a couple of weeks with no troublesome consequences. In fact, in Europe (notably in France) a special instrument is used to pierce the eardrum of those with a painful middle ear infection, to relieve the pain and enable the pus to drain.
Recent studies have shown that antibiotics are not effective for the treatment of earaches, that they will resolve in the same length of time whether antibiotics are given or a placebo. Children who have had antibiotic treatment however, are more likely to ‘develop’ glue ear (a chronic condition in which catarrh builds up in the middle ear causing some hearing loss) and a tendency to repeated earaches.
Children with glue ear may be offered grommets — minute plastic funnels which are inserted into the eardrum so that the fluid can drain. Whilst children with hearing loss and delayed speech can improve dramatically as a result, it does expose them to the risks of a general anesthetic and a surgical procedure, albeit a minor one. Afterwards, there is a risk of infection from water getting into the middle ear and the need to have them put back in as and when they fall out. In other words, they don’t deal with the underlying problem.
A sore throat with a fever may be a tonsillitis, an infection of the tonsils or glands at the base of the tongue. The function of the tonsils is to protect the throat and lungs from infection. It is no longer fashionable to remove them because, even if they are removed, the same ‘bug’ can produce a sore throat in a different place (a pharyngitis instead of a tonsillitis). In any case, the tonsils reduce in size after about the age of 12, which is why infections are less common after that age.
The glands in the neck and tonsils become swollen when they are dealing with an infection causing a difficulty in swallowing and pain.
A sore throat is hard to diagnose in a small baby. They may cry when they try to take either solids, liquids or both, because swallowing is painful, and the cry may have a hoarse ring.
a word about fevers
Parents often ask me plaintively whether they can give the Tylenol for the pain even if they decide against the antibiotics. I know how heart-breaking it can be to watch your little one suffer and of course I understand giving a analgesic (painkiller) at night so that everyone can get some healing sleep, but and this is a big but, it is important to remember that a fever is the mechanism by which your child’s body fights an infection. If you bring the fever down artificially, (with Tylenol, or even a homeopathic medicine) then the infection can take longer to heal.
Small children who develop a fever, especially infants under six months old, must be watched carefully because they are vulnerable to becoming quickly dehydrated. Delirium and tantrums sometimes accompany high fevers, and, although these are distressing, they are not dangerous.
Children with fevers need careful nursing so that they become neither too hot, nor chilled. A child who feels cold with a fever needs wrapping up and a hot child needs uncovering. It really is as simple as that. If you want or need to bring a fever down naturally, then sponging a child down really does work. Some children can be dunked in a lukewarm bath, other need much more careful treatment — you can remove one limb at a time of a shivery (but feverish) child from under the bedclothes and sponge it down with tepid water until the limb is cool, letting it dry and replacing it before going on to the next limb.
A child with recurring infections (including earaches and sore throats) is suffering from a chronic condition. Constitutional homeopathic treatment has a marvelous track record in helping children recover their vitality. There is usually an inherited factor, which the professional homeopath can take into account when prescribing as well as other more serious stresses such as childhood vaccinations, which are now thought to be a major factor in the increase in childhood infections.
Children with glue ear, those who are prone to convulsions with their fevers and those with any chronic condition, including those with allergies, should always be taken for constitutional treatment so that the underlying causes can be dealt with.
homeopathic treatment for earaches and sore throats
A well selected homeopathic remedy will give speedy pain relief, without side effects. Match one of the pictures below with your child’s symptoms. You may need to consult a first aid book like mine…The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro if these descriptions don’t match your child’s collection of symptoms. Having selected the remedy:
Give according to the urgency of the complaint i.e., every 15-30 minutes if in severe pain, less often (every 1-2 hours) if in less pain.
Stop on improvement. (this is important, a homeopathic medicine works as a trigger, stimulating the body to heal itself)
Repeat if the same symptoms return.
Change the remedy if you have given about 6 doses and had no reaction or if the symptoms change.
You might want to purchase some remedies for those middle-of-the-night times when the shops aren’t open: Aconite, Belladonna, Chamomilla and Pulsatilla are my favourite for painful, sudden earaches in children. First-aid homeopathic kits are available from homeopathic pharmacies such as Dolisos, 1-800-DOLISOS, or Boiron, 1-800-258-8823.
Aconite Sudden onset of any infection, after a shock, after getting chilled (especially by a cold wind.) Pains are severe, often waking them in the night (around midnight). Child is distressed (anxious and scared), screams with pain, is restless and thirsty.
Apis Burning, stinging pains with earache or sore throat; worse for heat and better for cold (drinks, compresses, ice packs). Doesn’t want to be touched or covered. Child is weepy, restless and thirst-less.
Belladonna Sudden onset of any infection. Pains are severe, throbbing and worse for warmth. They radiate from ears to neck and face; or from throat to ears. The throat is bright red and glands are swollen. Flushed, thirst-less and delirious with a burning, dry fever. Tongue is red with white spots (like a strawberry). Child is angry when unwell and may throw tantrums.
Calcarea carbonica Infections with swollen glands in teething infants. Throbbing earache with noises in the ear. Child is sweaty, especially the head and back of the neck, especially at night. Everything smells sour (sweat, stools, breath). Chamomilla Infections with unbearable pains in teething or angry children. Burning fever with shivering. Child is inconsolable, wants to be carried, screams with the pains and is very angry. Asks for things, which are then rejected or thrown down.
Hepar sulph Infections with swollen glands. Stitching or splinter-like pains are better for heat (hot drinks or warm compresses). Throat feels as if there is something stuck in it. Tonsils are swollen and ulcerated. Sweat is smelly and profuse. For chilly types who become morose and irritable when ill and don’t want to be touched, who are better for being well wrapped up. Kali muriaticum Hearing loss after an earache or sore throat. Ears snap, crackle and pop after an infection.
Mercurius solibus Infections with swollen glands. Sore throat with pains radiating to ears on swallowing. Tonsils swollen and ulcerated. Fever with heat alternating with chills and profuse, smelly sweat. Breath smells, children drool especially in their sleep. Sensitive to both heat and cold. Burning thirst. Glue ear after a cold or earache with smelly discharge from ear.
Pulsatilla Complaints may come on after getting wet, when teething and with emotional stress (especially separation from mother, including weaning). Earache with feeling of pressure from catarrh pressing on eardrum, hearing loss and noises in ear. The external ear is red. There may be a thick yellow discharge. Sore throat: throat is dry, irritated and raw, as if there were dust in it. Symptoms are worse for heat and better for fresh air. Child is thirst-less, pathetic, clingy, wants to be carried and cuddled. Weeps with the pains and needs lots of reassurance. Sulphur Left-sided infections with swollen glands. Earache with painful ringing/roaring in ear. Sore throat: throat is dry, raw, burns and voice is hoarse; pains are worse for swallowing and coughing. Fever with sweating and shivering. All symptoms are worse for heat. Thirsty, restless, sluggish and irritable. Hates being washed, especially in warm (hot) water.
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