Friday, July 20, 2012

Science Momma Meets Ear Infections

When my daughter started daycare at 5 months old, she would be introduced to all kinds of new viruses. Some viruses I had not seen growing up thus the antibodies she received in my milk were not specific and would not be protective. Every time she had the sniffles or a fever, I was desperate to try to figure out what was wrong and where she was hurting. We ate together and I kissed her even if she had lots of drool just so I could catch whatever virus she had. Secondary to the viral infections, she was constantly plagued by ear infections.

A moment where my scientific mind and mommy hood united was when the bouts of ear infections got out of control. On the 5th round of antibiotics, I asked the pediatrician, "Could we be enriching a drug-resistant strain?". She said no. From August to December, she had been on 13 rounds of various antibiotics to treat the inflamed ears but the infections never truly went away. Sleepless nights, antibiotic side effects, and high fevers, were just a few irritations we would become familiar with.

The final straw came when the 13th round of the strongest antibiotics didn't improve the inflammation. Our daughter wasn't even one year old yet and we were referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. After assessing the infections in both ears and the history, the specialist concluded she needed ear tubes. So we scheduled the surgery. It made me so nervous as a mom to have my baby under the bright surgery light at such a young age.

The day of the surgery, we headed to the hospital, she went immediately to surgery, less than an hour later she was in recovery. We went back and I could hear her little cry. I held her, comforted her and nursed her as she was still under a year (I prefer to nurse for a full year). Now, the doctor came and talked to us about the surgery and said he took a sample of the microbe and sent it to get identified. Everything looked great and we were ready to go home to let her sleep. Later that day, she woke up from her nap and was a totally different baby! She could hear better, babble better and was in such a great mood! We were all happy!

A few days passed and the doctor called. He said the bacteria that was found in both ears was indeed a particular drug-resistant strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae. He also said if the ear tubes did not help the infection, there was only one antibiotic that could be used but they do not like to use it on children younger than 15 years old as the mildest side effect is spontaneous rupture of tendons.

I was not about to have to rely on yet another antibiotic. I knew she had conjugate pneumococcal vaccines as scheduled but I didn't know if it contained that particular strain. After some research, I found the pediatric pneumoccocal vaccine did not cover that strain, or any drug resistant strain for that matter, so she did not have immunity against it. However, there was a vaccine that did have that particular strain. It was the adult pneumonia vaccine!!

Since I was still nursing, I had the unique capability to get vaccinated with the pneumonia vaccine, let my B cells make their specific antibodies against the different Streptococcus pneumoniae strains (including the drug-resistant strains), and after about 10 days they would be secreted in the milk. Once she fed, those antibodies contained in the milk would attach to her mucous membrane in the mouth and would traffic to the nasal passages. So, in less than 24 hrs after receiving that phone call from the doctor, I had my pneumonia vaccine administered. I just cheered my cells on!! "Go go!! The girl needs your help!!". The count down was on. Yes, I am proud to say I'm a nerd.

We went back in to the doctor a month later and found the ear tubes did the work but I think it was in combination with the new and improved antibodies. She had the tubes for about a year and they fell out. After they fell out, she had another ear infection. We were obviously nervous because of what we had previously gone through.

Her regular pediatrician was not available to see us but her colleague was so we saw him. He checked her ears and indeed she had another ear infection. Since he had just gotten back from a Ear, Nose and Throat conference, he had a tip that changed the course of events from the past. It was to always use saline spray in the morning and at night in the nasal passages. This allows for the nasal passages to stay moist and less inflamed if there is irritation. We did this and haven't had trouble since!

So if you have kids or are around kids, add saline spray to the back-to-school supply list because the viruses are just waiting to leap from one kid to the other. Where there are viruses, a risk for ear infections are always a possibility.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!


  1. Poor baby :( considering your background I know it's an unlikely shift in thinking to make, but have you considered alternative therapies at all? Since all those antibiotics proved futile, and the last course of action allopathic medicine can offer comes with a risk no mother would take? Chiropractic adjustment can work wonders to aid drainage in the upper passages. Vitamin C is a potent anti-infective and is a fantastic safe method of killing pathogens. Garlic is incredible in its raw form too. Homeopathy has proven benefits in supporting the body in fighting illness. Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone :) Sometimes it's necessary to challenge our thinking in order to provide for our children. Natural News is a great resource for alternative therapies. I hope your sweet baby recovers fully xx

    1. Thank you for your suggestions Ings. I actually tried all I could because I, personally, think antibiotics are unnecessary especially since I know the immune system can clear it if it's in working order.

      I tried several approaches including using a garlic infused olive oil for the ear. The only thing it accomplished is she smelt like a Thanksgiving Day turkey for a month.

      About a yr ago she developed another ear infection after having the tubes which were successful. The dr that helped her said to use Saline mist every morning and night so the membranes do not get inflamed and swollen. We haven't had another one since!!! We've done it most everyday for the past yr.

      After I posted this my friend told me that the mothers urine dripped in the ear will cure it. So the next time she develops one I will have to say I'm going to try it. I'm all for trying something new and out of the box since, that's how I roll. However, when it doesn't work and she is miserable for months, I have to resort to going to the Dr for the dreaded antibiotics. Again, thank you!

      Many kind regards,