Link Between Milk Allergy and Chronic Ear Infections

by TwinToddlersDad on September 7, 2009

in Ask The Expert,Food Allergy,Helpful Tips

In her recent article Vaccine for ear infections soon to be on the market,  Chicago Family Health Examiner Jasmine Jafferali, MPH, wrote that the underlying cause of chronic ear infections in children could be milk allergy. I was so intrigued by this suggestion that I contacted her to address this idea in a Question-Answer format for my blog. If your child is suffering from chronic ear infections and you are concerned about excessive use of antibiotics, this article is a must read for you! Let me know what you think!

JasmineJafferali

Jasmine Jafferali, MPH, ACE-CPT

Jasmine Jafferali is an Educational and Wellness Consultant who helps women, moms, children and families achieve healthier lifestyles.  Her mission is to teach women to take charge of their health and well-being.

Jasmine has a BS from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in Exercise Science and a Master’s in Public Health from Benedictine University.

In her spare time, she loves being outdoors with her family and enjoys experimenting in the kitchen.   Jasmine lives in Chicago with her husband Jeff and daughter Lilly.

Question: You have said that milk allergy is an underlying cause for chronic ear infections. Can you provide a credible reference to support this?

Jasmine: Dr. Greene, a prominent pediatrician,  has discussed a link to milk allergies and ear infections.  Up to 40 percent of kids who suffer from chronic ear infections has a milk allergy.  In fact a 1997 report on food allergies in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that cow’s milk allergies tend to hit children in their infancies, showing up as colic, acid reflux or eczema.  However many pediatricians are overlooking the possibility of food allergies, especially milk allergies to chronic ear infections.

Question: How can parents recognize the signs of food allergy and dairy allergy in particular?

Jasmine: Although a child can develop an allergy to almost any food, well over 90 percent of food allergies in children are caused by one of only six foods: milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, and tree nuts. The immediate symptoms of food allergies in babies and toddlers are irritability, colic, wheezing (sometimes asthma), a minor rash, chronic runny nose, or itchy eyes. These more immediate symptoms are less likely to occur than slower onset symptoms, which your baby can experience seven to 10 days after exposure to cow’s milk.  These more common symptoms include diarrhea (possibly with blood), abdominal cramps, vomiting, coughing, gagging, acid reflux, ear infections, runny nose, eczema and colic.

Food allergies is becoming more and more common in our children.  Parents are fearful and the information out there is confusing.  These findings are all consistent with the 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines that overturned previous recommendations by declaring that there is no evidence that delaying any food beyond 4 to 6 months helps prevent allergies at all — for healthy term children who are not already allergic.  However, many parents get quite excited introducing solids to their infants.  Remember, the main source of nutrition for an infant is breastmilk or formula for the first year of life and solid food is meant to be the supplement.  Look for signs that your baby is ready to eat solids.

Question: What kind of questions should parents ask when an antibiotic is prescribed?

Jasmine: If an antibiotic is prescribed some questions to ask are:

  1. Is the infection bacterial or viral?  If viral, then antibiotics will not improve symptoms of the ear infection.  It is like being prescribed antibiotics for a cold.  Ask for possible alternatives.
  2. Where is the location of the infection?  If the infection is in the middle ear, ask if waiting it out is an option and what you can do to help minimize their pain.  Eighty percent of ear infections will resolve on its own within 4 to 7 days without antibiotics.  WebMD wrote an article on this study back in 2005.
  3. If my child must take antibiotics, can I give them some probiotics after the finished antibiotics to help replenish their good bacteria?  (remember antibiotics kills BOTH good and bacteria and you have replace the good back into the body)  Studies are showing the benefits of taking probiotics after antibiotic treatment and during cold and flu season.

Question: How can parents tell if they are exposing their child to excessive antibiotic use?

Jasmine: If you are in the doctor’s office for the third time in one year getting another round of antibiotics it is time to ask the long term effects of getting the antibiotics and start looking into the underlying cause for the chronic condition.  If your child is an infant, you may want to switch formulas where the formula is more broken down and easier for your baby to digest.  Or if you are breastfeeding looking at your own diet as possible issues.

Question: Can ear infections be treated without the use of antibiotics?

Jasmine: Often, an antibiotics is prescribed to treat the ear infection. According to the June 2009 British Medical Journal article, prescribing antibiotics leads to more ear infections.  In fact, if the children had taken antibiotics, there was a 63 percent chance they’d had at least one subsequent infection. The risk was only 43 percent for children who’d been given an inactive placebo.  Other studies show that it takes children only three days longer to recover from the middle ear infection without antibiotic treatment.  (see the WebMD article)

There are alternate treatments to chronic ear infections.  In fact, my own grandmother used some of these home remedies on us when we suffered from ear infections.

  1. Warm compresses with a warm washcloth. Do not put the water in the ear and make sure the washcloth is not too hot.
  2. Hyland’s ear drops is used with a confirmed diagnosed ear infection.  This can be purchased at your local drugstore or health food store.
  3. Warm olive oil, or warm garlic infused olive oil: In test tube studies garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity-garlic is a natural antiseptic!  Chop 2 garlic cloves and allow the small pieces to marinate in a half cup of olive oil for a day (if you can’t wait proceed to warming the oil over the stove).  Warm the oil slowly over the stove, it should be warm to your touch.  Get an ear dropper and put a few drops into the ear.  You may add a few more drops later in the day, the first round should do the trick.  This mix will last for about two weeks.  Many parents are turned off by this home remedy, however, there are plenty that use and swear by this method.
  4. Echinacea – this is an herb which can safely and effectively boost the immune system.  Click on Dr. Greene’s guide to using Echinacea properly.
  5. Chiropractic care – chiropractic adjustments to the skull and neck can improve middle ear drainage and decrease ear infections.  Many parents are finding relief going this route

Using a combo of the above will be helpful such as warm compresses and whichever remedy you choose.
WARNING – if you see any liquid or pus draining out of the ear, DO NOT PUT ANY OF THE ABOVE DROPS INTO THE EAR.

Question: Can you give suggestions to dairy alternatives if dairy allergy is found to be the cause of ear infections?

Jasmine: If you child has a confirmed milk allergy with an ELISA allergy testing, then eliminating all dairy can be a difficult transition for your child.  Finding the right dairy substitute is tricky.  Often kids allergic to dairy are often or have a hard time digesting soy.  As rice cereal was probably your child’s first food, rice milk is a nice alternative and easy to digest.  If there are no tree nut allergies, almond milk is another great substitute.  If you are concerned about your child getting the fat from the milk, you may add up to 1tsp of flax oil to the milk substitute.   There is now coconut milk yogurt and coconut milk ice cream which is both delicious and provides some great health benefits.  So Delicious is a wonderful brand and your child will not miss out.

©2009 Littlestomaks.com

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  • Alina

    Great job bringing up this topic. After my 2nd child came along, who started showing a dairy sensitivity around 8 weeks old, I cut dairy out of my diet (I was exclusively nursing). Besides all this great info by your guest expert, I have found Dr. Jay Goron’s web site to be a good source of information on dairy and how it can cause issues in children.
    Here is his essay on Cow’s Milk:
    http://www.drjaygordon.com/development/pediatricks/dairy.asp

    And here is a reference library of other studies relating to cow’s milk and negative effects:
    http://www.drjaygordon.com/alezav16/default2.asp?tree=548

  • Alina

    Great job bringing up this topic. After my 2nd child came along, who started showing a dairy sensitivity around 8 weeks old, I cut dairy out of my diet (I was exclusively nursing). Besides all this great info by your guest expert, I have found Dr. Jay Goron’s web site to be a good source of information on dairy and how it can cause issues in children.
    Here is his essay on Cow’s Milk:
    http://www.drjaygordon.com/development/pediatricks/dairy.asp

    And here is a reference library of other studies relating to cow’s milk and negative effects:
    http://www.drjaygordon.com/alezav16/default2.asp?tree=548

  • Iris

    Great article, Jasmine! I took my little one, who had chronic ear infections off all dairy products when she was four, and she has not had one since. I wish more parents knew about the link between dairy products and upper respiratory and ear infections in children.

    And you are so right about So Delicious coconut milk products! Our whole family enjoys not only their dairy-free ice cream and coconut milk beverages, but also their coconut milk yogurt and kefir. Yum!

  • Iris

    Great article, Jasmine! I took my little one, who had chronic ear infections off all dairy products when she was four, and she has not had one since. I wish more parents knew about the link between dairy products and upper respiratory and ear infections in children.

    And you are so right about So Delicious coconut milk products! Our whole family enjoys not only their dairy-free ice cream and coconut milk beverages, but also their coconut milk yogurt and kefir. Yum!

  • Jack

    This was me when I was a kid. Cutting out milk also cut out my ear infections. Cheese was always fine, and now that I’m older, I can handle milk and ice cream just fine as long as I partake rarely.

  • Jack

    This was me when I was a kid. Cutting out milk also cut out my ear infections. Cheese was always fine, and now that I’m older, I can handle milk and ice cream just fine as long as I partake rarely.

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  • http://www.biblehealth.com/ear-infections/inner-ear-infection.html Middle Ear Infection

    Hey jasmine dairy product are really not good for kids. Because of this my younger brother is suffering from chronic ear infections.

  • karthik

    hi  jasmine my kid is only 30 days old. yesterday we found some allergy(white colour liquid is coiming out) in right ear. please give suggestions

  • katie

    My son has been getting chronic ear infections. He’s almost 10 months old and has had one (at least) every month since he was 5 months. I’m beginning to wonder that a milk allergy could be causing this. My doctor didn’t think so because he thought my son would have gotten eczema or have GI problems, but I’d like to rule it out at any rate. We tried Similac Allimentum, but my son refuses to drink it- he can’t stand the taste! Do you know of a milk-free/soy free formula that babies like?

  • Bobbyv

    Does anyone realize this is all pseudo-scientific. Your evidence was that cow’s milk allergies develop during infancy and since kids have ear infections when they are toddlers, that they are linked.  wonderful, leading more parents down a path that can result in children not appropriately addressing chronic ear problems.  Retained fluid in the middle ear can result in significant speech and language delay due to chronic conductive hearing loss.  Take your kids to a pediatric ENT for their chronic ear infections.

  • Patty

    The reaon I found this article is because I was searching for information to back-up the fact that, when I was little (I am 40 now), I had chronic ear infections because I was allergic to milk (dairy products), and received allergy shots every saturday from the time I was 4 until I was 12.  When I tell my kids’ pediatrician(s) about this, they say, “uh, huh…oh, I see,” and look at me as if I must have gotten my wires crossed somehow.  I had just taken the information that I was allergic to milk w/conseqence being ear-infections as gospel for so long that I never realized that the milk allergy/ear-infection thing wasn’t a common ailment until I had my own children – where nobody seems to have heard such a thing. Glad to see that at least a few have.

  • Patty

    I had a panel of allergy tests done as a child, and DAIRY came up – I was definitively allergic to milk, with the consequence being ear-infections. I received allergy shots once a week.  

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  • Hailey

    My pediatric ent couldn’t do anything for me. I barely went to first grade because my ear infections were so frequent. my parents cut out milk, and away went the ear infections. My uncle (a big milk drinker) came to stay with us for a few weeks. My ear infections came back. My parents couldn’t figure out why, then my uncle fessed up to giving me a glass of milk every night. Definitely related.

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