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Reluctance to Use Antibiotics


My 9-month-old son hasn't been eating or drinking anything for more than a week. But apart from that he's doing fine. His doctor detected an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics, but I'm reluctant to use them. He already had a 10-day course of amoxicillin about a month ago. The doctor asked us to come back in a week, but she also told us to start the antibiotics. If I do give him antibiotics, can I give them for fewer days?


The most important reason to give antibiotics is not actually to treat the infection, but to prevent the infection from spreading. Most ear infections (about 85 percent) will clear on their own without antibiotics. His continued lack of eating, though, may mean that this ear infection is not clearing. Usually with an ear infection, if the child has not started to appear significantly better within 48 to 72 hours, the antibiotics will turn out to be a good idea.

The problem with giving antibiotics for fewer days is that it can leave some of the strongest bacteria alive and they can then grow back. Amoxicillin is given for five days in 2-year-olds, but for 10 days in 9-month-olds for this reason. It's okay, however, to go back and say that you chose to wait on the antibiotics and want to see how things are now. You can also get a device called an EarCheck, available at most drugstores. It uses sonar to easily tell you if the ears have cleared. It costs about $50.

Also, there are several viral infections common this time of year, whose main symptom can be to decrease the appetite. These viruses can also cause red eardrums.

Not eating for a week can be fine for most children, but not drinking is not so good. It can slow healing and could lead to dehydration. If he goes longer than eight hours without a wet diaper, he needs to be seen. Offer liquids frequently.


All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.