Mormons tend to have more children than the general population, and that means one thing in particular: more ear infections. Antibiotics are the most common treatment, but for many kids they don’t seem to help all that much. Now some studies suggest that ear infections as well as tooth decay can be reduced by using a naturally occurring sugar, xylitol. Xylitol occurs naturally in some plants such as raspberries and is used in some chewing gums (e.g., Trident). It’s also available in several other forms such as syrup. Talk to your doctor and be sure to NOT give gum to young children who might choke on it – or put it in your hair.
Here is an abstract from M. Uhari et al., “Xylitol in Preventing Acute Otitis Media,” Vaccine, 2000 Dec 8;19 Suppl 1:S144-7:
Xylitol is a polyol sugar alcohol and is referred to as birch sugar, because it can be produced from birch. Natural sources of xylitol include plums, strawberries, raspberries and rowan berries. Xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae and it inhibits the attachment of both pneumococci and Haemophilus influenzae on the nasopharyngeal cells. In two clinical trials xylitol was found efficient to prevent the development of acute otitis media with a daily dose of 8.4-10 g of xylitol given in five divided doses. The efficacy in these 2-3 months follow-up trials was approximately 40% when chewing gum was used and approximately 30% with xylitol syrup. The need to use antimicrobials reduced markedly when using xylitol. In a high-risk group of children with tympanostomy tubes xylitol was ineffective in preventing otitis. Xylitol appears to be an attractive alternative to prevent acute otitis media. A more practical frequency of doses should be found before its use can be widely recommended.
However, giving xylitol only when the child is suffering from ear infection may not work, according to T. Tapiainen et al. in “Xylitol Administered Only During Respiratory Infections Failed to Prevent Acute Otitis Media,” Pediatrics , Vol. 109 No. 2 February 2002, pp. e19 (full article is available at “Pediatrics.org).
Disclaimer: I am not a physician and know almost squat about medical science, ear infection, otitis (is that a musical instrument from Brazil?), xylitol, and children. But I do occasionally chew gum, and once had an ear ache. Given my lack of credentials, it is amazing that I would dare post anything at all on health issues – or any other topic. Even more amazing is that some people would look to random blogs for medical advice. But if a little xylitol helps spare you from the frustration of ear aches in young children, well, I guess that’s OK. Talk to your doctor, do your homework, be careful what you do, don’t mess up your children with quack remedies, and floss daily. And keep your fingers out of your mouth and nose.