Chewing Gum Reduces Risk of Ear Infection in Children

Xylitol, or birch sugar, is a sugar naturally found in plums, strawberries, raspberries, and rowan berries. It is often used to sweeten toothpaste and chewing gum since it is as sweet as sucrose but does not cause tooth decay; this is because it cannot be fermented by bacteria that live in our mouths, and instead inhibits their growth. As the key step causing acute ear infections is the colonization of the middle ear by bacteria that move there from the mouth, researchers have hypothesized that xylitol might help prevent acute ear infections as well as tooth decay.

Researchers at the University of Toronto recently performed a meta-analysis of three Finnish studies and found that children who chewed gum — or took other products laden with xylitol, including lozenges or syrup — had about a 25% lower risk of developing an ear infection compared to controls. The study is published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [1].

Child ear examination

Antibiotics Overprescribed for Sinus Infections

Healthcare use of antibiotics far outweighs the predicted incidence of bacterial causes of acute and chronic sinusitis. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the March 2007 issue of Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery [1].

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infection. Many sinus infections are due to viral infection, allergies or hormonal changes. Physicians try to avoid antibiotic use to reduce the emergence of dangerous resistant bacterial strains, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. However, most patients with sinus congestion want immediate relief and, because more effective drugs for chronic sinusitis are lacking, demand antibiotics.


The four-year prospective study found Americans made on average 4.25 million visits to healthcare facilities per year for sinus infection between 1999 and 2002. At least one antibiotic was prescribed in nearly 83% of cases of acute sinusitis and 70% of cases of chronic sinusitis. Antibiotics were prescribed more often than antihistamines, nasal decongestants, corticosteroids, and antitussive, expectorant, and mucolytic agents (order reflects the frequency of recommended medication).