Ear Infections No Treatment Needed

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - 4:09pm

New study finds majority of childhood ear infections don't need antibiotics.

Any parent who's ever had a child with painful ear infections knows it's hard to see them suffer,
but new research suggests antibiotics may do nothing to help after all.

Getting a good look inside squirmy and sick kids' ears can be an art form, and crucial to an accurate diagnosis.

Once confirmed, pediatricians often get out their prescription pad.

"If it was truly an ear infection, the general pediatrician would prescribe antibiotics which would actually target a bacterial cause for the ear infection," says Dr. Amina Ahmed.

Now a large review of research from the past decade finds a majority of kids' ear infections clear up on their own without antibiotics.

Dr. Tumaini Coker of Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA led the new review.

She says that out of every 100 kids with an ear infection about 80 will recover without a prescription.

However, antibiotics did help some children.

"Now if you were to go back and treat that 100 children with antibiotics, you could expect that number 80 to go to 92," she says.

So why wouldn't parents want their kids to have an antibiotic just in case?

Dr. Coker says a few children develop rashes or diarrhea from the medicine.

Others suggest possible long-term effects of repeated antibiotic use: Superbugs.

"If we limit antibiotics to those children that truly have ear infections, I think we're going to decrease resistance overall," says Dr. Ahmed.

Regardless of the final course of treatment, doctors say kids should be seen by a doctor for a professional diagnosis, even if you leave the office empty-handed.

Doctors say there's no reason kids should suffer from their pain.

Even if they don't have an antibiotic over-the-counter pain relievers can help them feel better, sooner.

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