There are two major germ classes that cause infections: viruses and bacteria. Bacteria are responsible for about 70 percent of ear infections, viruses cause about 8 to 25 percent of ear infections, and bacteria and viruses working in concert are found in the remaining cases. Ear infections that are caused by viruses can't be treated with antibiotics, in the same way that no medicine can cure the common cold. But antibiotics can fight bacterial infections.
For a child who has never had an ear infection or hasn't been on antibiotics for the past 30 days, the most commonly prescribed antibiotic is liquid amoxicillin, the pink, bubble-gum-flavored kind.
But if your child has recently been treated for another ear infection, it's likely that he's infected with a strain of bacteria that is resistant to amoxicillin. If that's the case, there are several stronger antibiotics your physician may select, including Augmentin, Zithromax, and Biaxin.
But pay attention to whether your child likes the taste. "Bad taste" is a huge reason certain antibiotics don't work; it's extremely difficult to get a cranky toddler to take his medicine even when it tastes good. If getting your child to take a "yucky" antibiotic is a problem, ceftriaxone, an injectable antibiotic, is also available.
After starting oral antibiotics, your child should begin to feel better in two or three days, but you must always have your child finish the complete prescription. It's also important to bring him in for a follow-up visit so the doctor can ascertain that the infection has indeed cleared up.