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Vitamin D May Be Key to Fewer Recurrent Childhood Earaches

Vitamin D May Be Key to Fewer Recurrent Childhood Earaches: Main Image
Children receiving vitamin D experienced significantly fewer episodes of ear infection
By age three, nearly all children have had at least one ear infection, but for an unfortunate few, recurrent ear infections (otitis media) are an ongoing discomfort. Now health experts have discovered that something as simple as vitamin D supplements may reduce recurrent childhood ear infections.

Vitamin D shows promise

Researchers invited parents of 116 children with a history of recurrent ear infections to participate in a vitamin D study. The children were one to five years old, and had at least three confirmed ear infections in the previous six months, or four infections in the previous 12 months, with at least one infection in the previous two to eight weeks. Blood vitamin D levels were checked at the beginning and end of the study.

The children were randomly selected to receive 1,000 IU per day of liquid vitamin D or no vitamin D (placebo) for four months. After four months of follow up:

  • Children receiving vitamin D experienced significantly fewer episodes of ear infection compared with children in the placebo group.
  • Children with higher vitamin D blood levels (above 30 ng per ml) at the end of the study--44 of the 58 vitamin D-supplemented children--experienced significantly fewer ear infections than children with lower levels (below 30 ng per ml).

Protecting your children against recurrent ear infection

As a placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial--the gold standard of research--this study demonstrated a clear benefit for children with recurrent ear infections. Vitamin D is considered safe for most kids, but always check with your pediatrician before adding new supplements into your child's wellness routine.

Along with expert guidance from your child's doctor, a few simples steps may help keep your little one's ears free of recurrent infections:

  • Clear the air. Exposure to secondhand smoke significantly increases ear infection risk in children. Keep your child away from secondhand smoke, and if you smoke, make it a priority to quit.
  • Pass on pacifiers. Pacifiers may soothe some children, but they also increase the risk of earaches. If your child uses a pacifier and has recurrent ear infections, ask your pediatrician if it's time to wean off the pacifier.
  • Sit up straight. Always hold your baby in an upright, seated position during bottle feeding; giving a child a bottle while lying down increases ear infection likelihood.
  • Breast-feed if possible. Breast-feeding your baby up to at least six months of age protects against ear infections.
  • Wait it out. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends waiting 72 hours before treating childhood ear infections with antibiotics. Most ear infections will clear up on their own during this time, but always check with your pediatrician to determine the right course of action for your child.
  • Soothe as needed. Placing a warm, moist cloth over your child's affected ear may help relieve pain.
  • Go natural. Ask your pediatrician about natural alternatives, such as probiotics, for reducing ear infection risk.

(Pediatr Infect Dis J 2013;32:1055-60)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.
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