Photo of a child with earache
Improving children's vitamin D status could help ward off earaches

Vitamin D cuts kids’ risk of recurrent ear infection

17 September, 2013

Natural Health News — Children with low levels of vitamin D and recurrent ear infections may be helped by vitamin D supplementation.

Researchers from the University of Milan report that compared with children who took a placebo, those with recurrent acute otitis media (AOM) who received 1,000 IU daily of Vitamin D had significantly lower risk of experiencing one or more episodes of AOM and the risk of uncomplicated acute otitis media was markedly smaller in the vitamin D group as well.

Small study, big implications

The researchers took 116 children with an average age of around 34 months, with recurrent otitis media and randomly assigned treatment with daily doses of oral 1,000 IU of vitamin D or with placebo over 4 months. Recurrences of acute otitis media were monitored for 6 months.

Recurrent disease was defined as three or more episodes in the 6 months prior to the study or four or more episodes in the 12 months prior to the study.

Most of the children in both groups were white (98.3% and 100%, respectively) and had been breast feeding for 3 or more months (72.4% and 84.1%). All had a similar incidence of ear infections before the study; all had been vaccinated with the influenza vaccine, and the majority had received a heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (82.8% for both groups).

In all the children average vitamin D blood concentrations in the placebo and treatment groups were lower than the recommended 30 ng/mL

At 6-month follow-up, blood vitamin D was significantly higher in those treated with supplements versus placebo (36.2 ng/mL versus 18.7 ng/mL). Additionally, approximately 60% fewer children in the vitamin D group had one or more episodes of acute otitis media in the group treated with supplement. There was no significant difference between groups for those whose disease was complicated by perforation.

A new treatment option

Among younger children, ear infections are a common health problem and doctors are divided on how to treat it. Some believe that all children younger than 2 years should receive antibiotic treatment for acute otitis media, whereas recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics in February 2013 are to follow stricter diagnostic criteria and to observe patients who have uncomplicated disease.

According to lead researcher Susanna Esposito, MD:

“In clinical practice, this means that in children with recurrent otitis media, we can check their levels of vitamin D and, for those with low serum levels of it, consider supplement use as a treatment for their condition,” she said during a presentation of the study, ahead of its publication, at the Interscience Conference on Anti-Microbial Agents and Chemotherapy.