It has been suggested that children who don’t consume enough iron in their diet are more likely to catch an ear infection.
A study of 680 children in the US who suffered regular bouts of acute otitis media had significantly lower concentrations of iron in their blood than did the control group of 200 children with no history of ear infection. Indeed, one-fifth of the sufferers were anaemic, compared with just 1.5 per cent of the controls.
When the anaemic children were given iron supplements plus 100 mg of vitamin C per day, the number of recurrences of an ear infection dropped significantly, even though the children were at the age that is highly prone to such infections.
However, the researchers do sound a note of caution. Severely malnourished children shouldn’t be given iron supplements before they’ve had a chance to recover their nutritional status or they could develop a life-threatening infection. This is because iron therapy will improve the state of the infecting organisms before it boosts the body’s own immune system (Townsend Lett Doc, 2002; June: 31).