The European Union stepped squarely into the party-pooper zone a few years ago by issuing a Toy Safety Directive declaring that it was off-limits for kids 8 and younger to blow up a balloon on their own.
Now it’s been found that kids with persistent ear infections (otitis media with effusion or OME) who used a device to blow up a balloon using one nostril eased their own discomfort and resolved ear infections without having to resort to antibiotics or surgery.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 90 percent of kids have at least one ear infection before age 10; many have long-term infections that cause sticky fluid buildup, risking hearing damage. Avoiding deafness with antibiotic treatment may be necessary in the case of chronic ear infections, but often kids are given antibiotics unnecessarily — 80 percent of the time, the infections would clear up on their own. Overprescribing contributes to antibiotic resistance and damages the gut biome, making kids vulnerable to health problems later in life.
A journal report on the balloon contraption, called Otovent, shows that it provides significant improvement in kids’ OME: 47 percent of children 4 to 11 using balloon therapy achieved normal inner-ear pressure in a month.
If your child has a temperature above 100 F, discharge of pus or blood from the ear, lingering or worsening symptoms, or if your child is younger than 3 months old and has a fever, get her to a doctor pronto, but see if your child’s ear problems can be deflated without using antibiotics or surgery.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.