More than half if not three quarters of ear infections in children are caused by viral germs which get better simply with tincture of time.
Bacteria-causing ear infections do need treatment with an antibiotic but since these are in the minority as a cause, the American Academy of Pediatrics now suggests not treating ear infections in children over 6 months of age automatically with an antibiotic but instead treating the pain for the first day or two with the hope that the virus causing the infection will be defeated by the child’s own natural immune system and if the ear pain and discomfort persists after 48 hours despite good pain control, then antibiotics might be considered.
This delay in treating ear infections with antibiotics is to avoid overuse of antibiotics which can make the bacterial germs more resistant to common antibiotics and thus more difficult to treat.
Just because we may not prescribe antibiotics immediately does not mean we will not treat the pain with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Of course the best way to deal with an ear infection is not to let one happen, so what can we do to prevent them? The best way to do this is to teach your children good handwashing to prevent the spread of germs from one person to another.
In addition, breastfeeding your baby for at least the first six months, and making sure their immunizations are up to date decreases the risk of ear infections occurring and keeping children away from environmental tobacco smoke will make it easier for viruses to get out of the nose so they don’t move up into the ear canal and cause an infection.
Hopefully tips like this will give you more than an earful of information when it comes to getting a better understanding of your child’s ear infection.
Dr Rahul Varma