Treating Ear Infections
By age 3, 66 percent of all children will have endured this common infection, and many will have had repeated bouts. As recently as five years ago, antibiotics were considered the gold standard for getting rid of ear infections. But that approach is changing. The reason: Research shows that frequent antibiotic use can lead to drug-resistant bacteria, making ear infections harder to treat. While experts agree that some ear infections warrant antibiotics immediately, don't be surprised if your doctor writes out a "safety-net" prescription, to be filled only if your child's symptoms don't subside within 48 hours. "About 80 percent of ear infections get better on their own," says Richard Rosenfeld, M.D., cochair of a middle-ear infections sub-committee for the American Academy of Ped- iatrics. In most cases, painkilling eardrops, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen should ease your child's discomfort. So when are antibiotics the best treatment for ear infections?
GIVE ANTIBIOTICS IMMEDIATELY:
- If your child is under 2 years old. (Young children need help fighting off even mild ear infections due to their immature immune system.)
- If he has severe ear pain or a fever over 102°F.
- If he has had an ear infection within the past month.
- If he has ear tubes that are giving him problems.
- If he also has another bacterial illness, like strep throat.
HOLD OFF ON ANTIBIOTICS:
- If your child has moderate or mild ear pain.
- If she has a low or no fever.
- If she's able to sleep through the night.
- If she has no other current illnesses or health problems.
- If your doctor isn't sure whether it's a bacterial ear infection. (Antibiotics are useless for colds and other viral infections.)
- If your child has problem-free ear tubes. (Antibiotic drops may be used instead of oral medications.)