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Book Review:
Healing Childhood Ear Infections: Prevention, Home Care and Alternative Treatment

by Dr. Michael A. Schmidt
North Atlantic Books, Homeopathic Educational Services, 1996
Available from LLLI; No 3353, $16.95
LEAVEN Volume 34 No. 3, June - July 1998, p. 49

Thirty million trips to the doctor each year are attributed to ear infections. Nearly one-third of all children seen at doctor visits have this painful problem. In the US, the traditional treatment for ear infection has been a course of antibiotics. Many children with repeated ear infections have had tubes inserted in their eardrums in order to alleviate this condition. Dr. Schmidt's book empowers parents through a more thorough understanding of ear infections, the pros and cons of traditional treatments and a look at alternative treatments.

Although breastfeeding minimizes the incidence of ear infections, many parents and Leaders will, at some time or other, find themselves helping their own child deal with this condition. Dr. Schmidt's book is an excellent resource and educational tool for parents to use in their quest for answers. He begins with a helpful basic explanation of otitis media, the technical name for middle ear inflammation. He follows up with a discussion of symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, complications and a global approach to otitis media.

Traditionally parents have believed that bacterial infection causes ear infections. Dr. Schmidt believes only a fraction of ear infections are due to bacteria in the ear. Allergies, viral illnesses, yeast, mechanical obstruction of the ear due to swollen adenoids or structural abnormalities, nutritional insufficiencies, birth injuries to the head or spine are possible culprits. He has discovered links between ear infections and dairy allergy, inhalation of cigarette smoke, fetal alcohol exposure, the mechanics of drinking through a bottle and day care.

More than 300 pages long, this guide helps parents know when to call the physician as well as how to care for the child at home. By increasing their own knowledge, parents become more confident in dealing with this condition and consulting with a physician about treatment choices.

Prevention is the topic of another chapter. Prevention begins with breastfeeding. Alternative care such as homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, manipulation, herbal medication, allergy management and dietary management are also addressed.

Some mothers may be overwhelmed by Dr. Schmidt's recommendations for dietary supplementation for the nursing mother. These recommendations are detailed and go far beyond the LLLI philosophy of eating a well-balanced diet of whole foods. I hope that dietary recommendations will not discourage a mother from choosing to breastfeed by making it seem too complicated. Despite this concern, Healing Childhood Ear Infections is a helpful publication.

Dr. Schmidt encourages breastfeeding for preventing allergies and strengthening the immune system. He recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of six months but feels breastfeeding for several years is best for the child. He states that "Breastfeeding is perhaps the most effective means of preventing not only middle ear infections but infections of all types." We in LLL have always known that "babies begin better with breastfeeding." Now we have a thoroughly referenced book, written by a physician, that tells us why.

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