Vitamin E for Ear Infections

There isn't enough evidence to recommend vitamin E for preventing or treating ear infections, which are one of the most common infections in young children. You need vitamin E for limiting blood clots, and it also acts as an antioxidant, helping to prevent damage to your cells from harmful compounds called free radicals. Speak with your doctor before taking vitamin E supplements or giving them to children to make sure this is safe.

It may be risky to take high amounts of vitamin E supplements. Credit: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

The Theory

Getting enough vitamin E helps keep your immune system functioning properly. Thus, not getting enough vitamin E in the diet may increase susceptibility to infections, such as ear infections. One- to 3-year-olds need 6 milligrams per day, and 4- to 8-year-olds need at least 7 milligrams per day. Vitamin E also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which may be helpful if you've got an ear infection. Inflammation from a bacterial or viral infection can cause blockages that limit drainage in the ear, increasing the risk of an ear infection and potentially making it more painful. This type of inflammation may also limit the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment for ear infections.

Research Results

Vitamin E hasn't been well studied for the prevention or treatment of ear infections. A study published in Pediatrics in May 2003, however, did find that an herbal ear drop that contained vitamin E, among other ingredients, may be helpful for limiting pain slightly in acute ear infections. It isn't clear how much, if any, of the benefit was due to the vitamin E and how much was due to the other ingredients in the ear drops.

Potential Risks

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning any extra you eat is stored in your fat cells and can accumulate into toxic levels. Children, who are more susceptible than adults to ear infections, need to limit their vitamin E intake from supplements. Those between 1 and 3 years old should get no more than 200 milligrams per day, and those between the ages of 4 and 8 should limit vitamin E intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day. Too much vitamin E increases the risk for bleeding. Vitamin E may also interact with chemotherapy medications.

Recommended Treatments

Speak with a doctor to determine the proper ear infection treatment. This could be simply using over-the-counter pain relievers and watching and waiting to see if the condition improves on its own or, in some cases, antibiotics may be necessary. Massaging behind the ear can sometimes help keep fluid draining, and a few drops of body temperature olive oil can help break up ear wax, limiting the risk for ear infections, according to a March 2013 article on the Fox News website.

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