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Originally published Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 5:10 AM

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Drops, vitamin D might prevent child ear infections

People’s Pharmacy on ear infections, heartburn relief and how different types of tea can affect the body.

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Q: My son is suffering his fourth ear infection this year. I am concerned, and I am wondering if there is something I can do to keep him from getting these repeated infections. Would putting alcohol in his ears after a bath help? Is there some other preventive?

A: Ask your son’s doctor if the infection is in the ear canal (swimmer’s ear) or if it is otitis media (a middle-ear infection). Eardrops of alcohol and vinegar can help prevent swimmer’s ear.

To prevent middle-ear infections in young children who get them repeatedly, you might ask your pediatrician about a vitamin D supplement. New research from Italy shows that children prone to these infections are often low in vitamin D, and a supplement of 1,000 IU/day can help prevent such infections (Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, October 2013).

Q: After my first pregnancy, I had terrible heartburn. I was quite miserable; nothing I tried worked well enough.

I wasn’t sleeping properly because of the reflux, so I decided to visit my doctor as a last resort. I was prescribed a drug that gave me relief, but my doctor said I would probably need to take it regularly from then on. I liked the relief but hated the idea of lifelong dependence on a pill.

I came across an old German remedy for chronic heartburn and decided to give it a try: Juice a fresh cabbage and drink half a cup three times a day for 30 days.

I did this and did not take the prescribed pills while I drank the juiced cabbage. This cured the problem.

A: As far as we can tell, there have been no scientific studies of cabbage juice against heartburn. Although there are lots of success stories on the Web (much like yours), there also are reports that cabbage juice made things worse.

Heartburn can be caused by many factors. Some people have an infection called Helicobacter pylori that can cause ulcers or gastritis. There is evidence that compounds in the cabbage family of vegetables, especially broccoli sprouts, reduce inflammation and kill the H. pylori bacteria (Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, May 24, 2013). Perhaps that is why cabbage juice helped you.

Q: I read on your website that Earl Grey tea may cause muscle cramps. Since I don’t like the flavor of Earl Grey, this has not been a problem for me. I did discover (thanks to your book “Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy”) that I am sensitive to camomile. The stomach cramps that I was experiencing went away as soon as I discontinued my daily cup of camomile tea.

A: Camomile tea has a reputation for being helpful for digestive disorders, but not everyone can tolerate it. Although allergic reactions are uncommon, some people experience rash, stomach cramps or trouble breathing after consuming camomile tea.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website: www.peoplespharmacy.org

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