This past week, The New England Journal of Medicine released new research findings on the treatment methods for children (under 2 years of age) with ear infections. The study looked at the varying treatment methods in current medicine which include immediate antibotic treatment and the watch and wait approach. The researchers randomly assigned 291 children, 6 to 23 months, with acute otitis media (ear infections) to receive either antibiotics (amoxicillin-clavulante) or a placebo for 10 days and measured the children’s symptomatic response rates. The study found that those children treated with the antibiotic had a reduction in the time to resolution of symptoms. They also noted an overall reduction of symptom burden and the rate of persistent signs of acute infection on otoscopic examination.
In one of the blogs we follow, Seattle Mama Doc, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson weighs in on her thoughts of the new study and the different approaches to treatment. She agrees that if the child has a true ear infection, that antibiotics are the right choice. However she encourages parents to push the doctor looking at the child’s ear to really examine the eardrum, as this is how they will diagnose if it is a true ear infection as an early ear infection or having fluid in the ear may not be the right time to give antibiotics.
Here are some tips for parents she recommends should your child have a suspected ear infection…
What To Do If Your Child Has A Suspected Ear Infection:
- See your pediatrician for an ear check if you are concerned about an ear infection in your child.
- When the pediatrician diagnoses an infection, push them on the appearance of the eardrum. It’s always okay to ask what it looks like! Ask if the eardrum is bulging, if it has pus behind it, or is red in color. It’s okay to ask the pediatrician to clarify and explain the difference between fluid in the ear and an ear infection. In combination with your child’s symptoms, it will be important for making a plan.
- If there is difficultly seeing the eardrum, expect the pediatrician to clear earwax from the outside of your child’s ear. Hold on. Remember that seeing the ear drum is the most important part of determining how to help your child.
- If the docs says its an “early infection” or “just a bit red,” or that they are unsure if it’s infected or not, consider asking about avoiding the use of antibiotics. Consider using just pain control and supportive care instead.
- If your child is not improved after 48-72 hours from when symptoms started (treated with antibiotics or not), return to see the pediatrician for another evaluation.