Before going for antibiotics, wait it out. It could help future cases of ear infections.

By Kristin Harmel

Not every ear infection requires antibiotics. In fact, eight in 10 children's infections clear up without them. Moreover, each course of antibiotics can increase bacterial resistance, making future infections more difficult to treat, says Allan Lieberthal, MD, cochair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) panel on ear infection guidelines.

Due to concern over antibiotic overuse, the AAP has released new guidelines to doctors for treating ear infections. So be prepared for the possibility of a different protocol on your next visit. For kids:

2 years and older

Antibiotics will be given to kids with severe symptoms (high fever, severe pain), but a child with moderate symptoms may be observed for two to three days. During this time, the child's ear pain should be treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If symptoms aren't gone after the waiting period, then parents can administer antibiotics (some doctors may give you a prescription in advance).

6 to 24 months

Antibiotics will be given if symptoms are severe or if the diagnosis is certain. If the child is doing well, observation is an option.

Younger than 6 months

Antibiotics should always be used. "At this age, babies are at higher risk for a serious infection," says Dr. Lieberthal.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, June 2004.

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.

Healthy Kid


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