Antibiotics speed up recovery from ear infections in young children, studies show
January 13th, 2011
10:12 AM ET

Antibiotics speed up recovery from ear infections in young children, studies show

Giving babies and toddlers antibiotics when doctors are certain they have ear infections can help speed up their recovery, supporting current treatment guidelines for children between the ages of 6 months and 23 months.

However, antibiotics do come with significant side effects including diarrhea, rashes, yeast infections and vomiting. Overuse of drugs also contributes to antibiotic resistance, so careful selection of who should take antibiotics is necessary according to 2 studies published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to one of the studies, ear infection, or acute otitis media, is the most frequently diagnosed illness in children in the United States, and most children with these ear infections are routinely given antibiotics.

But just 2 months ago, a new study confirmed practice guidelines from 2004, which recommend that children older than 2 with a confirmed diagnosis of an acute ear infection do not need to be given antibiotics because the drugs do not significantly speed up recovery.

The foundation for  the "watchful waiting" treatment recommendation instead of taking drugs is based on this and previous studies that  did not have very many children under age 2 in the clinical trials.  This made concluding that the same treatment works in the youngest age group very difficult.

These 2 new studies were designed to provide the research to  fill the gap, and clarify treatment recommendations for babies and toddlers.  The children in these latest trials had their ear infections confirmed by experts (otoscopists).  Researchers found that the youngsters who received a placebo did not recover as quickly as those getting the amoxicillin-clavulanate, an antibiotic that has been shown to be effective for earaches.

However the differences were not huge.  In the United States study, 80% of the children on antibiotics felt better on the seventh day of treatment; 74% of the children taking a placebo also felt better on the seventh day.

Dr. Jerome Klein, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from Boston University's Medical School, says in an accompanying editorial that these two studies resolve the controversy over giving antibiotics versus watchful waiting in kids with confirmed ear infections.

"More young children with a certain diagnosis of acute otitis media recover more quickly when they are treated with an appropriate antimicrobial agent," Klein wrote.

Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, who is a professor and chairman of otolaryngology at SUNY Downstate and Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, has been charged with reviewing the 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for treating ear infections.  He, too, has been eagerly awaiting the results of these 2 studies.

One of the strengths of both studies, Rosenfeld said,  is that the researchers took the time to make a solid diagnosis. Only children who really had ear infections were included in the trials.  But Rosenfeld  doesn't see the results as black and white as Klein.

"Medicine is about gray zones and balancing the risks and benefits," Rosenfeld says. "Parents and doctors need to understand what the benefits and what the downside of treatments are."

"If you received a placebo and you have a 74% chance of having symptoms go away or improvement [of illness]" – compared with the 80% in the antibiotic group ... "as a parent, how impressed are you about a 6% difference?"  In treatment outcomes for pain, there was no difference, he notes.

In both studies, children taking the real drugs had more side effects.  The study authors caution about the overuse of these drugs and the risk of antibiotic resistance.  The Finnish noted that limiting use of antibiotics may reduce the development of drug-resistant bacteria and increase the chance the future use of antibiotic will be effective.

Rosenfeld says it's never wrong to prescribe an antibiotic for a well-diagnosed ear infection. "If the child has high fever, severe ear pain, the child is really miserable, has a fever or draining from the ear or double ear infection and is under 2 years old, then prescribing antibiotic is probably the right thing to do."

But waiting to take the antibiotic isn't a bad idea either.  He says he frequently writes a prescription for parents but tells them to hold off from filling it for 3 days.  If the child still has symptoms 3 days later, then they should get the antibiotic and start giving it to their child. If you do that, 2 out of 3 parents don't fill out the prescription."

Which is why he says what to do is still not clear-cut.  He also points out that if antibiotics don't relieve a child's pain, pain medications will.

Rosenfeld believes these latest studies reinforce an important message: "It's an opportunity for a conversation with your pediatrician." Parents need to weigh the benefits of what antibiotics can do in terms of killing the bacteria (if the ear infection is caused by a bacteria and not a virus) and the side effects their child may have to endure, as well as the possibility that exposing bacteria to antimicrobials may make the drugs less effective in the future.

soundoff (1,109 Responses)
  1. No_DUHH

    This just in, glasses help people with eye problems see better

    January 13, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bam

      also just in, kids not taking antibiotics develops holes in their ear drums until the infection goes away

      January 13, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • kylesan

      Breaking news! It appears the Sun rises in the West... More on this at 11.

      What idiots.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse |
    • MD Mama

      thanks for clarifying...the whole time reading, im like, realllly?? isnt that the point...geez.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • Jaded

      This report is not complete. They fail to mention the horrors many parents go through trying 10 – 15 different antibiotics only to discover NONE of them will solve the problem. All the while your child suffers for 2-3 months going to the doctor several times every single week just to see the infections staying or constantly coming back.

      Eventually, you are forced to put tubes in their ears. That is when the problem finally gets solved. Antibiotics can not stop resistant bacteria easily. This report makes it sound far too simple.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • Marilou

      Anyone who has ever suffered from an ear infection and the associated pain would never talk about withholding antibiotics. I grew up in the 1950's before antibiotics were readily available and sulphar based medications were all you could get. I spent many long agonizing days from ear and thoart infections with ear drum damage. Now 60 years old those memories are still very strong and thought of that by gone pain makes me shutter. Don't over use medications but for god sake, don't let people suffer needlessly.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • Bulloch

      Are you serious? All this time and the answer was right under (or on) my nose... I agree, this story should be filed under "DUH".
      Studies show, usless studies waste everyone's time...

      January 13, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete

      Studies show that eating food helps to prevent starvation, and breathing air instead of water can prevent drowning.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
    • RockChalkJHK


      STUPID PARENTS!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 13, 2011 at 15:01 | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      When you look up redundant in the dictionary does it say "see redundant" ??? ha ha ha ..

      This is news? wow.. zzzz

      January 13, 2011 at 15:08 | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Why the ear infections come back again and again, until the children need ear tubes?
      Maybe because the pediatricians do not run a immune System panel to check how this child's immune system is ? and
      because they do not enforce the use of PROBIOTICS while and after taking antibiotics?
      The chances of a child with recurrent ear infections to develop Regressive Autism is very high. Why more and more children become immunologically deficient? This is why are talking about antibiotics, because they can be very harmful if people do not know how to handle them.

      January 13, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
    • hushupp

      People who remove "Do not remove this tag under penalty of law" do NOT get visited by the Pillow and blanket Police.

      January 13, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse |
    • Danielle

      @ No_DUHH – couldn't have said it better myself – I saw the headline and I thought I was reading it wrong. As a mother of an 11yr. old child who suffered from ear infections all of his life, ummm that's what they always did – prescribe antibiotics. I guess they have nothing better to write about. NO-SHI$$$$$ is more like it!!!

      January 13, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse |
    • Branden

      Ya, they can also cause your baby to go deaf. Im a shining example. Seriously CNN.

      January 13, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
  2. Larry

    Hasn't this been common knowledge for many years?

    January 13, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • abm

      20 years ago I had a son who in his first 2 years of life was getting ear infections. I administered anti-biotics and always had good results. However, after about a year and a half of this going on repeatedly, a nurse practicioner and naturlist doctor told me that the anti-biotics were probably causing a weakness in my son so he was giving a round of natural remedies including ensign pellets. Since then he has never,ever had another infection of the ears or any where.

      January 13, 2011 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Watching some of the monumentously stupid things people do, can you really say there's such a thing as "Common Knowledge" anymore? It's common knowledge that too much sun can cause skin cancer but how do we explain the entire cast of The Jersey Shore?

      January 13, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
  3. June

    Has anyone had a child that suffered from mastoiditis??? Well if you have, then you would be not be reluctant to provide your child with antibiotics on the onset of a bacterial ear infection. Mastoiditis is what can happen if a bacterial ear infection is not treated properly. It is a very serious diagnosis requiring hospitalization and IV antibiotics. Pretty tough for a child under the age of one. The caveat is "bacterial" vs viral. A viral ear infection like any viral infection is not treated with antibiotics. But if bacterial is suspected, then antibiotics should be given. Just my opinion...I am not a doctor.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • littleln

      I'm an adult and I still suffer from occasional inner ear infections due to sinus issues. About 4 years ago I went to my new family Dr (I had just moved to the area) and told her I had an ear infection and needed antibiotics. She looked in my ear and said "yup it's infected, but since you are an adult we won't give you antibiotics, it'll go away on it's own" Well three days later, despite the fact my ear drum had ruptured during that time, I was in excrutiating pain. I went back to the Dr. OOPS Mastoiditis. Then she was more than willing to give me the antibiotics. Fortunately we got that before it got too bad...

      Last week our pediatrician Refused to give my 3.5 year old antibiotics for her ear infection and after suffering miserably for a few days it ruptured, made a horrible mess (it reeked worse than rotten eggs) and it moved into the other ear. I have a really hard time believing that antibiotics wouldn't have saved her from damage to her ear drum as well as prevented it from moving to the other ear.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      My daughter had a mastoidectomy on 10th Jan 2011. She's been on very strong antibiotics and at the weekend came out in a rash and was suffering diarrohea and tummy cramps from the antibiotic clindamycin. It's a pity the infection wasn't picked up and treated before she ended up with mastoiditis and before she needed to be on so many very strong antibiotics. However, without antibiotics mastoiditis could have killed her, caused hearing loss, facial paralysis or meningitis. I am very grateful for antibiotics and the expertise at the John Radcliffe hospital.

      January 25, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
  4. David

    As a parent, I'd like to see a clear summary of data on the side effects of the anti-biotics. This article and others say that taking anti-biotics as a young child may create drug resistance problems later in life. Can we see some data on that? Are those problems in a similar negligible range (80% vs 74%) or are they more substantial and thus should inform our decisions more?

    January 13, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gort01

      how about the clear cut evidence that your kid will have significant hearing loss because you didnt take them to get antibiotics...this whole argument is ridiculous...if you kid had diabetes would you want to see whether they would do better with or without All the medication they eeded....omg

      January 13, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      It's not about causing antibiotic resistance for your particular child later in life, it's about causing new strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and put everyone at risk.

      January 13, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • McGuffin

      It's not ridiculous; drugs for diabetes do basically one thing: lower your blood sugar in one way or another. Antibiotics simply do. not. work. against viruses. Your ear infection may be viral or bacterial. These studies are about finding out which is more common in certain age groups, and therefore whether doctors should assume it's viral and not treat, or assume it's bacterial and treat. If it's viral, you're not doing anything but giving the kid side effects and breeding resistance that harms everyone in the end.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • Chaz

      To echo what Rob said,
      People CANNOT become antibiotic resistant! Bacteria do. Overuse of antibiotics is really a public health issue as opposed to one that directly afects you or your child.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • Travis

      David, I'm sure that information could be found in a medical journal.

      Gort01, The first thing a doctor would do is look and see if the diabetes could be controlled by proper diet and exercise. We Americans are always looking for the easy way out and that's why we want the drugs first. Most ear infections go away in 2 weeks by themselves but parents can't handle the complaining from there kids and taking time off of work so they are looking for the fast cure. The doctor is thinking of the best interest of your kid be it the side affects or becoming resistant to anti-biotic.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
  5. Sara

    Antibiotic resistance has been as issue talked about in the scientific community for awhile. I know when I was in college 1998 taking microbiology I had to write a research paper on it, so I imagine it was an issue even before that. It's not just antibiotics creating this resistance either. It's the antibacterial soaps and detergents that are used on a daily basis that are part of the problem too. You should not be using antibacterial products AT ALL other than hand sanitizer when you're not able to wash your hands. Regular soap and detergent are more than enough to wash dirt and germs from hands and clothes

    January 13, 2011 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lauren

    Garlic drops or even breast milk in the ear work just as well (if not better!) than prescription antibiotics, and come with no side effects (except maybe a smelly ear for a couple of days).

    June, mastoiditis is the rare (and very unfortunate) complication. You state "when treated properly"; are you referring to the use of antibiotics? If so, there are multiple ways to treat an ear infection properly, not just a prescription for antibiotics. And with antibiotics, there is the risk of not only developing future resistance, but also the decrease in immune response overall because the antibiotics kill all good and bad bacteria. If you are going to take a prophylactic antibiotic, ensure your diet includes plenty of fiber and that you replenish the good bacteria in the gut through a daily regimen of probiotics AFTER your prescription course is finished.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Albert

      Lauren, can we get a citation on the studies that show garlic and breast milk cure ear infections? Is this your own anecdotal evidence where N=1????

      January 13, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • AceRyder

      Strange you state this since my doctor and I discussed that ear infections are deep in the ear canal and therefore could not be treated by a drop.

      Where does your info come from – wives tale or true study?

      January 13, 2011 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      The structure of the tympanic membrane is very similar to skin – there is an epidermal layer (the outer layer), then a fibrous layer, and internally, a mucosal layer. Each of those layers are composed of cells, with various junctions that allow transport of material across the cell membrane or between the cell junctions. Regarding efficacy, there will of course be a variance, simply because some TMs have scar tissue formation due to trauma/perforation, etc.

      As far as studies go, there aren't any of which I am aware, but that doesn't exclude it from the possibility of working. I have heard (and experienced) anecdotal accounts where both breast milk and garlic drops in the canal have cleared the symptoms (obviously I can't attest that the infection was completely gone) of an ear infection in as little as 24 hours. That's faster than a 3-day course of Zithromax. I started doing this with my son's ear infections when he was a baby after his MD suggested he was a candidate for "tubes" and found great relief for him.

      Of course, for everyone screaming "give us a study", this isn't going to please you, but to each their own, and I would rather TRY something and see if it works before going the more invasive route or the route that results in serious side effects. God bless.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
    • questionauthority

      A little weird but why not try it. So long as there are no serious risks. Ive tried some home remedies that have worked better than their chemical sidekicks. I was pleasantly surprised.

      January 13, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse |
    • Mother

      This is not true if the child's ear canal is not positioned correctly, which is the main cause of repeated ear infections in kids under two and why so many gets get ear tubes. If the tube is not in place to point downward, your garlic drops and breast milk won't get to the right place.

      January 13, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      I think you are referring to the eustachian tube... the most common reason kids get repeated ear infections is because their ears are draining down the eustachian tube (usually because the adenoids are enlarged and mechanically pressing into the tube, causing an obstruction).

      As far as that having an effect on the drops... that argument doesn't make sense. The eustachian tube comes AFTER all the components of the middle ear. It is located off the inner ear, so its orientation wouldn't even come near affecting the efficacy of the drops.

      Now, if you are speaking about the ear canal and its orientation.... in babies, the ear canal is horizontally aligned... so you would of course need the child to lay on his/her side to administer the drops to ensure they drained to the appropriate area.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • Lauren


      January 13, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • Prasad

      Heat coconut oli and garlic, cool it down. And then Add 2-3 drops to each ear every week. For generation together in India moms and grandmas did this. In winter use sesame oil. We did the same for our 2 kids. I was surprised when Nurse told me not to apply oil to baby in the hospital, my mother-n-law just did it. I guess Doctor love to create patients.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • Mamaof3

      There was a study in the journal Pediatrics in 2003 stating that garlic oil worked as well as antibiotics.

      And for the people freaking out about ruptured eardrums, yes, if it happens repeatedly there can be scar tissue, etc. But in and of itself a ruptured eardrum is not considered a big deal medically. They usually heal just fine. You can confirm that quite easily with any MD. Sounds and looks terrible, but in reality doesn't equate to becoming deaf or anything like that. Repeatedly rupturing it wouldn't be great, but it also isn't very common.

      We just took our 9 month old to the ped yesterday for an ear infection (following a cold). He gave us a scipt but we asked about waiting a day to see how things were trending. Last night he slept great and is doing much better today, sans antibiotics. We could have given them but opted for watchful waiting and he improved nicely on his own.

      January 13, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse |
    • Marty Rogers

      breast milk into the ear???? that is like feeding the bacteria directly. Why not push in a little peanut butter too....

      January 13, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse |
  7. Ann

    Anitbiotics are one of the most significant medical discoveries in all of history. And shortly after the first antibiotic (penicillin) was discovered, resistance became a problem because penicillin was given to everyone for everything. With antibiotics, it's not a matter of "if" resistance will arise, but "when." If you give your child ampicillin 5 times a year, unless all the bacteria causing the infection are killed (which is rare), those bacteria will begin to change and fight back. The next infection, ampicillin won't work and you'll have to give them something more potent. Not only that, your child can pass those bacteria on to other children and they will have ampicillin-resistant infections. It continues to spiral up and up. Unless we stop using antibiotics for minor illnesses that will clear up on their own, we will, eventually, lose this important societal asset because the bacteria will have developed resistance to every antibiotic we have. And we'll return to the pre-antibiotic era when serious infections (pneumonia, bacteremia) were an immediate death sentence. So don't use antibiotics as a means to relieve symptoms! That's what pain relievers are for. Use them only as a cure for serious infections.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WarhammerTwo

      Thank you, Ann! You are precisely correct! Antibiotics are great, wonderful things but they should be used in moderation! I used to do antibiotic research and devolpment for a living (until my company terminated the program – now I do heart disease research) and can tell you it's not antibiotics that cause resistance but our complete OVERRELIANCE on them that leads to that. And believe me, it's getting harder and harder to find novel drug to fight these resistant strains. My research was actually looking to target MRSA but we struck out repeatedly. The company couldn't justify the investment with those diminishing returns. Anywho, yeah, moderation is the key. In everything. Like my former toxicology teacher used to say, "Everything's a posion. it depends on dose. Did you know water is posionous? Too much of it is called drowning." 🙂

      January 13, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
  8. James


    Jackets keep you warm when your cold and can prevent you from being sick!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • IR

      Cold temperatures do not make you sick. Bacteria and viri do

      January 13, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse |
  9. Tim

    As an ER physician and formerly in primary care, I know the science.
    However, a very large percentage of parents will seek treatment elsewhere (the ER or another primary care office) if
    their provider doesn't give their children antibiotics. There are untold ER visits for this very thing!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bam

      amazing isnt it? one group of people want their kids healed another group insist vaccinations are bad. just astounding how palin stupid people are these days. no matter how far we get away from the 1300's ignorance some still refuse to accept it

      January 13, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
    • Mamaof3

      ITA. Docs need to be up front and direct about the risks and benefits and when it is reasonable to watch and wait. I always tell our MDs (I worked in the medical field, and my husband is a PhD chemist) that we will be more than happy to leave the office without a script in hand. If it isn't likely necessary or helpful, please, we'd rather skip the RX. I think most docs feel obligated to hand out a RX because the families expect _something_ in return for the office visit.

      January 13, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
  10. Georgette

    As a young child, I had many ear infections probbaly because both of my parents smoked. I remember those infections as being very painful. Rarely did I receive medical attention. When I had children of my own, I never smoked. And when my kids complained of ear pain, I immediately took them to the doctor for an antibiotic. I never regretted it.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Pat

    IIn Sweden, they only use anti-biotics for sever ear infections. They use a simple nose saline solution instead. This clears the nasal passages and thus prevents the ear infections or helps clear them out. It is very cost effective and prevents the over use of these drugs. We asked our pediatrician about it and he did not know about it and did not know what to prescribe for it. Our first child followed what seems to be a typical US treatment - years of chronic ear infections, with thousands of dollars spent on medicine, and eventually having surgical implanted tubes inserted in his ears. Our other 2 children, we used saline and had none of those problems. Yes antibiotics fix the temporary infection but I ask why is our medicine so focused on fixing temporary problems instead of solving long term issues and reduced costs?

    January 13, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • abm

      Because if Western Doctors fixed the problem their money source would dry up.

      January 13, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
    • Pumbaa

      Another point of not using an antibiotic is the cost of the medication. Not everyone gets "free" medication. Some people can't afford the Rx bill and few pharmacies now have charge accounts.

      January 13, 2011 at 18:53 | Report abuse |
  12. Scott

    I would like to see a follow up study on the subjects that were subjected to antibiotic use and the prevalence of reoccurring infection. Not only does the antibiotic kill the bacteria that may cause an infection they also kill the good bacteria in the gut (i.e the side affect of diarrhea), this bacteria in the gut is very important to keep a healthy immune system. In addition, I would like to see how these children are affected by other things such as allergies, asthma and even dental health due to the use of antibiotic use. This study does not show a significant difference to warrant the use of antibiotics to treat ear infections.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Aaron

    Antibiotics increase a child's risk of having asthma by 70% if the child is given antibiotics before 6 months according to the following study.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Respondez

    If the eardrum is not perforated, nothing is going to get to the area behind it where the infection is (perhaps the warmth of your 'drops' can be slightly felt, however). If the eardrum is perforated, then you certainly wouldn't want anything like foodstuffs to get in there.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Patrick Lewis

    To all those people saying "No Duh" or "Breaking News!!!!" things aren't clear cut. There are side effects of taking antibiotics and those side effects can be really bad. Look up C. Dif. The antibiotic resistance thing is a big deal as well, which goes hand in hand with people not following up on a course of antibiotic treatment. Watchful waiting is just that, it's monitored. It sucks to have your kid be in pain, but for a .04% improvement in your possible outcome after seven days, you are opening up a much bigger can of worms.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ummm Duh!

      C-Dif is not that common....

      January 13, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
  16. Lisa

    In Sweden they now recommend to not give antibiotics to 2-12 year olds for ear infections. Personally I try to prevent the ear infection by saline rinses when my child/baby has a cold and "snot sucking" device for the toddler who can't blow her nose yet. My seven year old was diagnosed w an ear infection and the doctor wanted me to give antibiotics but I wanted to wait and see. It went away by itself and the pain reliever and saline rinses was enough. We should use antibiotics when we really need them and not just to get better a day quicker. Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem! And the antibiotics kill all the good germs in your body.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. PRO-MEDS

    i don't want my child suffering more than he has to... and i don't want him to end up like his neighbor with verbal development delays caused by scar tissue on the eardrum from too many ear infections "running their course".

    January 13, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • questionauthority

      scare tactic

      January 13, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      Ear infections aren't a "have-to-get-them" occurrence in infancy... breastfeeding, and limiting the mother's exposure to mucus-producing foods (like dairy) will help to limit their occurrence. The verbal delays and excessive infections are the extreme case and likely a lifestyle (diet) induced problem.

      When children are on formula as opposed to breastfeeding, their immune system doesn't get the benefits of the antibodies in their mom's milk, so right there is a predisposition to infection. On top of that, most commercial formulas are cows' milk-based and therefore mucus-producing, which promotes bacterial growth.

      If the child is suffering from pain, and you don't want them suffering, then a dose of pain reliever (while still having side effects of its own) will help them get through it without the tremendous side effects of antibiotics. You are correct though that multiple infections are a serious concern. I would first look at the cause behind it though, as multiple sequential instances are not normal.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse |
    • Mamaof3

      But the antibiotics are being shown to speed up recovery by maybe a day, with the added risk of side effects from the meds and the risk of increasing bacterial resistance. Many of the ear infections would clear up by running their course in essentially the same amount of time it takes for the RX to work, and you skip the risk of antibiotic induced side effects. It doesn't really hasten the recovery all that much, and there are many times when a particular antibiotic doesn't work at all for the ear infection (due to resistance or the ear infection being viral, not bacterial).

      January 13, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
    • Mira

      Not a scare tactic, a comment from her experience. I will never again tolerate my child writhing in pain from an ear infection and burst eardrum. I've been MADE to do that by a doctor who assured me it was "better" to not medicate. I will never do that again. She has damaged hearing as a result and scarring in her ears. I learned the hard way and this is not a "scare tactic" either. It's reality, from a vegan, breast feeding mother. If your kid has the right physiology for this to be a problem, there is no "magic" formula to avoid it. Use the antibiotics and save your child the suffering and risk of damage.

      January 13, 2011 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
    • John

      Lauren has absolutely no idea of what she is talking about, I'm guessing naturopath or homeopath here. There's a reason these people aren't allowed to take care of sick hospital patients. Total quackery.

      January 13, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse |
  18. TV

    Our daughter had ear tubes inserted twice before she was 3 ½ and scheduled for the third surgery. We researched and developed an in-house method to help the fluid drain and relieve pressure in the ear. The method bellow helped my daughter recover from a deaf ear to perfect hearing in three weeks. Her ENT specialist did not believe us, he said one of the hearing tests must be wrong although he examined the child after each test and confirmed the results. The third surgery was cancelled and ever since, we never took antibiotics for ear infections. Just helped the fluid drain.

    Most of the time the ear infection accompanies a cold. The nose is congested and so are the Eustachian tubes. To help relieve the pressure in the ear, the child has to swallow. Have your child lay down with the ear that hurts UP. Place a hot compress on that ear. After 10-15 minutes give the child chewy food (baby carrots) and let him swallow in the same position: the hurting ear UP and the hot compress on top. As the liquid behind the ear drum warms, it will flow easier down the Eustachian tubes and inside the child's throat.
    Please make sure the child does not flip sides. Laying on the warm pad, would increase the pressure against the ear drum which might pop. Have your child lay on the ear that does not hurt. Always treat the ear on TOP not on the sofa. We do cut all dairy and sugar for a few days. And no processed food.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. questionauthority

    I swear I read an artilce not to long ago on CNN saying the exact opposite. Whats up with that

    January 13, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Travis

      There is always a study that disproves another study you just have to decide if that source is valid or someone trying to make a buck.

      January 13, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
    • Desiree

      And it's funny because today while at the gym I saw this story on CNN and it said in the headlines THE EXACT OPPOSITE. That a new study showed that children given antibiotics for earaches had the same results for improvement as placebo. Antibiotics are used so frequently that we are no doubt encouraging bacterias mutation into more and more resistant strains. Pretty soon none of these damn antibiotics will work.

      A few good reasons to NOT take antibiotics unless absolutely necessary;

      they mess up your stomach;

      Why? antibiotics disrupt natural occurring bacterias that aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients.

      When you kill all the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract you are depleting your first defense against pathogens entering the body. Thus, you are susceptible to other illness. And if your bacterial strain is resistant to the antibiotic you take, it's not going to be effective for what you were taking it for in the first place. bummer.

      With women taking antibiotics you often see a yeast infection afterwards and that is a sign that the bodies natural bacterias have been depleted, they are there to keep yeasts in check and when they are weakened, it can give rise to other harmful elements. TAKE PROBIOTICS! It's wonderful for yeast control, healthy digestion, immune function and just plain old feeling good.

      So what do you do if your kid has an earache and you DON'T want to do antibiotics. EASY- go to Whole Foods or a Natural Food store, AKA Hippie Market and buy yourself some MULLEIN AND GARLIC EAR OIL (you can actually make this very easily but that is for another discussion. Warm the glass bottle of oil in a coffee cup with hot water for about a minute. Check to make sure the oil is not hot or even too warm on the inside of your arm. 2 to 4 drops in the ear with cotton, let the oil drain in to the ear. Eliminating the sugar and dairy for a day are excellent ideas because you want to devote the bodies full attention to healing itself. If accompanied by fever take the homeopathic remedy belladonna 30C. This is GREAT for kids because it's side effect free and they are wonderfully cheap and easy to administer.

      I'm telling you it works- I've even had to use it on my reluctant husband who randomly got an earache last year!

      Antibiotics are wonderfully to have when you really really need it. Their overuse is shameful on the part of doctors.

      January 13, 2011 at 17:55 | Report abuse |
  20. Marianna

    When treating any condition including an ear infection in a child under 2 it is best and safest to follow the doctor's advice and there are situation when antibiotics are the best solution. For an older child who gets frequent ear infections there are some things that can be tried to prevent the ear infection from happening at the first signs of runny nose or cold.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Ummm Duh!

    Imagine how riveting this article would be if it were 1920!

    January 13, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. GG1000

    The biggest contributor to antibiotic resistance is the bulk use of it in agriculture. Antibiotics are included as part of feed for meat production. Demand antibiotic free meat, and complain to your legislators that this is allowed. No amount of making kids suffer with ear infections is going to prevent antibiotic resistance when every calf in American is excreting antibiotics into the environment every time it takes a whiz.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TV

      This is one serious source of antibiotics we swallow with every meal. No wonder allergies and asthma rates increase every year.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
  23. Fernando1958

    BREAKING NEWS: Garlic has anti-biotic properties. When your kid starts crying, give some plain bread with extra-garlic on it to the kid.... then wait.... repeat 4 times a day.... or wait until it gets much worst and run to the emergency room with your kid where the doctor will say "you were suppose to come earlier... the kid needs antibiotics".

    January 13, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. audio doc

    An ear expert is not called an "otoscopist." Actually this is not even a real word. An otolaryngologist is an ear, nose , and throat physician. A physician that only specializes in the ear is called an otologist. An otoscope is a device that is used to look in the ear. Are the writers making up words now?

    January 13, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. ramiel210

    "These 2 new studies were designed to provide the research to fill the gap"

    For all of you who think this is an obvious research, it is and they probably know that already. But it's mainly done to confirm what we think we already know.

    January 13, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. asdasdasd

    Where is the good old link to send it to a friend by typing an email address instead of facebook, etc...

    January 13, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. StevieB

    Don't forget to take probiotics after taking antibiotics, or you'll enter a cycle of infections and allergies from an impaired immune system. Read http://www.thedoctorwithin.com/colon and find out what happens when the colon can't fight back anymore. Fascinating and eye-opening.

    January 13, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      I just drank some of my first batch of homemade kefir. I also started irrigating my sinuses at the first hint of a sinus infection. I haven't taken antibiotics in over three years. I think antibiotics definitely save lives, but are used far too often. In many cases, our natural immunity can take care of it.

      January 13, 2011 at 17:09 | Report abuse |
  28. fed123


    January 13, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Engyo

    True, IF it's really an ear infection. My daughter had what turned out to be a food allergy, whose symptoms resembled ear infections. Antibiotics wouldn't touch them. I'm glad we had the allergy issue checked before having tubes surgically implanted.

    January 13, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. bob

    must be a slow news day

    January 13, 2011 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. cinna

    This kind of debate has been around for a long time, & will always be around. And for the one that said c-diff isn't common, you're a fool. Though it isn't very common, it is more common than you think. Being a healthcare worker for 11yrs, I have seen several cases of it.

    January 13, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julia

      "Several cases in 11 years" is NOT THAT COMMON.. unless you only saw 10 cases per year??

      January 13, 2011 at 19:23 | Report abuse |
  32. Lauren

    *aren't draining... oops

    January 13, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. pumpkincat210

    good job doctors. tell us something we haven't known for half a century.

    January 13, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ken

      OK – Vaccination with primed dendritic cells fused with multiple myeloma antigens doubled patient's T-cell tumor responsiveness and stabilized disease in Phase I trials – reported in this month's medical journal, Blood. Bet they didn't know that in 1961. Or that you knew that in 2011.

      January 13, 2011 at 16:06 | Report abuse |
  34. Barbara

    We brought our adopted daughter home from China when she was six months old, with a draining ear. A round of antibiotics cleared it up, but she had repeated ear infections. After a row with a doctor who was taking calls for her doctor after hours, where he told me she was getting new infections from being in day care (small, home based, 2 other kids) I expressed the opinion to her pediatrician that we had never really eradicated the initial infection. She put her on low-dose amoxicillin for a month, and she never had another ear infection.

    Most patients do not take their antibiotics as prescribed with regard to timing, or stop them too early. When I was a kid, a round of antibiotics was 14 days. Now it's 7 or 10 – which I don't think is enough. It may be inconvenient, but it is what it is.

    January 13, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. deegaroo

    BUT WHAT ABOUT ADULTS?? I have a double ear infection right now and I'm 40 something.

    January 13, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Surf_Dog

      Yikes, been there too. You definately need anti-biotics and drops. If not, time to talk to your Doctor or go to a walk in clinic.

      Hope your ears clear up quick.

      January 13, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • twinsand2more

      Try a gluten/dairy free diet......it works!!!!!! No Dr. is ever going to tell you this....do some research.....(unless you go to an Internal Medicine Dr. – they'll tell you)

      January 13, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse |
    • Mira

      Not true. Some doctors are very comfortable with alternative approaches and most will order you to an ENT to be evaluated (which almost always also involves an allergist). I'm pretty frustrated at all the negative anti-medical commentary in here. Medical professionals are not in a conspiracy to make you unwell folks, and they aren't as "dumb" as you might think, you know, with all that higher math, chemistry, anatomy, biology, etc. they might know a thing or two you don't!

      January 13, 2011 at 20:35 | Report abuse |
    • Doc

      Not true. Sorry but gluten free or dairy free diets have absolutly nothing to do with ear infections. I'm an internist and celiac expert. Gluten free diet for this reason is just a fad.

      January 13, 2011 at 23:56 | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      Dr. Internist – have you ever read a physiology book? Have you ever looked at biochemical processes? Gluten (in some individuals) and casein (in some individuals) – note that I am NOT saying ALL – promotes an antigenic response. It activates inflammatory factors... That is like saying a diet high in sugar doesn't promote acne, when we all know that staph feeds off of glucose!

      January 14, 2011 at 09:33 | Report abuse |
    • Desiree

      mullein and garlic ear oil from whole foods, no dairy and no sugar for 3 days. seriously, it works.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:34 | Report abuse |
  36. Surf_Dog

    I have had many infections in my ears when I was a child. I had tubes inserted periodically too. That's one of the reasons I don't know how to swim – at the time you couldn't get water in your ears or the tube would dislodge and be lost.

    As a child recovery from an infection is requried to prevent damage to hearing. If the ear drum bursts the chances of hearing recovery are reduced, resulting in hearing impairment.

    Three years ago I had a nasty infection which I should hvae attended to earlier than I did. I was surprised to learn that Cipro HC was discontinued and replaced with Ciprodex, which in my experience isn't as effective – although better than most available. Cipro HC reduced the swelling in the drainage canal quickly and brought quick pain relief. It was very effective. I'd really like to see the return of Cipro HC personally.

    While I realize that anit-biotic resistance is an issue to be aware of, but when discomfort becomes insufferable pain and hearing loss becoms evident due to a build up of puss in the ear immediate treatment is necessary – with anti-biotics leading the charge.

    January 13, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julia

      Here Here! I've had several ear infections in my adult life, to the point that my ear drum had to be punctured by an ENT and vacuumed. So thick was the mucus. I've also tried to "tough it out", when the whole family has been sick, and ignored a fever and 4 days of seeing strobe lights, and an obvious ear infection, til the ear drum burst. I was finally diagnosed with ear infection in both ears, and ended up with permanent tinnitus in the ear which drum did not burst. Tinnitus is NOT fun and will annoy you for life, and there's not a thing you can do about it. I wish that one instance, I would've gotten treatment sooner. Fyi, Biaxin is a crap drug for it, too. When I am given normal penicillin, it works much better.. and to the people talking about how it messes up your stomach - NOT every time, and I would rather spend 7 days in the bathroom, than LIFE with ringing in the ears!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 13, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse |
  37. McGuffin

    How is it that this article barely mentions viral vs. bacterial ear infections? In the two studies, did the doctors base their decision to treat on whether they felt it was most likely a bacterial infection, or did they not factor this probability into their choice? A procedural difference like that could explain the difference between the two studies alone, but the article doesn't really discuss it. The bottom line is that antibiotics are going to help any child with a bacterial ear infection; they are useless and don't do anything but produce side effects and breed resistance in children with viral infections. Choosing what's most likely in certain age groups–bacterial or viral–is really what these studies are about. I think the article kind of whiffed on that point.

    January 13, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mira

      Middle ear infections are bacterial. A virus can trigger them, by causing inflammation which causes the eustachian tubes to be blocked, backing up fluid into the ear, but they are not what is making the middle ear infected. That's why a distinction is not made. Fluid in the middle ear, behind the ear drum, will become infected by existing bacterial over growth, if unable to drain.

      January 13, 2011 at 20:31 | Report abuse |
  38. amy

    Headline should read "Antibiotics help kids get recurrent ear infections".

    January 13, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      And where did you get that?

      January 13, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
  39. parent

    i don't know what these doctors are talking about. when my daughter had ear infections and was given antibiotics, she got relief within 24 hours, not seven days. without antibiotics, she suffered. it really is that simple. maybe the kids in the study didn't really have bacterial infections(?)

    January 13, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Jack

    Antibiotics speed up the healing from an infection???? Well, hasn't that been the whole idea behind antibiotics for decades? WHY THE HECK IS THIS NEWS????

    January 13, 2011 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Mathew

    This is an awful awful article. It is poorly written and presents the facts in a very misleading manner. The headline on the main page says the study urges the use of antibiotics for ear infections in children. It does nothing of the sort. In fact the 80 vs. 74% number they report in this piece has a P=0.14 which isn't even significant! 6% efficacy would NEVER be approved by the FDA for drug approval. The eventual resolution had a P=0.04 which just barely meets significance standards and is nothing to write home about. CNN should be embarrassed to publish such misleading headlines. The comments here reflect how easily people are swayed by a headline.

    January 13, 2011 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mslman71

      Matthew, the comments don't necessarily reflect that viewers are being swayed by headlines, most of the comments I read are a direct indictment of the headline itself. CNN's headlines are notoriously misleading and sloppy. This is no exception.

      January 13, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • Mira

      Many, if not most, of the statements in here are a big "duh!"-because either it mirrors the poster's experience or because antibiotics killing bacterial infections is not news. The article simply shares the fact that a recent study validates what is already standard practice in the United States for pediatrics.

      January 13, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
  42. FauxNews

    Antibiotics stop infections? Stop the presses, this is big news.

    January 13, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • publius enigma

      For a while there media was trying to prevent people from taking antibiotics so this may be news to many that were fooled.

      January 13, 2011 at 17:09 | Report abuse |
  43. mslman71

    Wow, no kidding, really? I suppose the decades of successful antibiotic use to stop ear infections was chalked up to nothing but anecdotal evidence? As one who has had both ear drums rupture from infection, let me assure you, you take the antibiotics, the infection goes away. Hold off and hope they get better on their own and you are asking for serious pain.

    January 13, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. mslman71

    And the drugs don't come with the side effects, the come with the possibility of side effects, which, in medical (legal) parlance, treats all probabilities equal. Why don't we say driving comes with the side effect of death? It is possible, right?

    January 13, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Mark

    Side stepping the obvious redundancy of this article, I'd like to point out that many insurance companies still count ear tubes as an elective surgery and refuse to cover the procedure (probably because it's the most common surgery in America). The Antibiotics help but they don't address the physiological problem that many kids have, like my daughter.

    Parents who have been spared the 4 month antibiotic cycle with a kid who is in serious distress don't know how lucky they are. The rest of us should have access to insurance coverage to fix the problem. My daughter's ear tubes were like a miracle, too bad I had to fight insurance for coverage.

    January 13, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Bob

    As a parent, I don't really care about the 7 days, I care about the immediate. A child with a fever, even controlled by pain medication, cannot go to school. They are listless and still in pain. There are a lot of issues BEFORE the 7 days that have been ignored with this study. My children see an IMMEDIATE result from antibiotics for ear infections and are back on their feet much sooner. The short term gain is extremely important and I don't know why they didn't do a more comprehensive study about the short term effects to balance out the long term.

    January 13, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mira

      Amen to that.

      January 13, 2011 at 20:26 | Report abuse |
  47. iowa

    Chiropractor is worth a try!

    January 13, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      What an irresponsible reply. No chiropractor worth his degree would treat an infant with an ear infection.

      January 13, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
    • Mira

      What a lot of mumbo-jumbo. Ear infections can have underlying causes folks, which should be looked into, but chiropractors, diet and immuno-voodoo as a response? Chiropractors who peddle "adjustments" for anything other than lower back pain are quacks. Neck adjustments on anyone is dangerous, and it's even more contraindicated for children.

      It's obvious that a lot of fearful people are replying that may also have never had a child with ear infection. Many people replying don't even know what part of the ear we are talking about here. >.<

      January 13, 2011 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      Mira – there is no contraindication to adjusting children unless they present with a condition that requires otherwise. Please get your facts straight. And yes, chiros don't treat ear infections. They treat a person, regardless of what they have. I don't adjust people for any specific ailment. I adjust for overall biomechanical performance, which may or may not have an effect on other issues they have. More than likely, it's not the adjustment that makes the person free from whatever they have, it is the nutritional and lifestyle counseling.

      By the way – remind me which group of health professionals used to prescribe baby aspirin to children, and then had to stop because they developed Reyes' syndrome?? Oh yeah, the medical profession. I'm not bashing them, I'm just saying you can't attack one group of professionals for not knowing "what they're doing" if your alternative also makes errors in judgment.

      January 14, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
  48. Dan

    Why the ear infections come back again and again, until the children need ear tubes?
    Maybe because the pediatricians do not run a immune System panel to check how this child's immune system is ? and
    because they do not enforce the use of PROBIOTICS while and after taking antibiotics?
    The chances of a child with recurrent ear infections to develop Regressive Autism is very high. Why more and more children become immunologically deficient? This is why are talking about antibiotics, because they can be very harmful, if people do not know how to handle them. If your child have recurrent ear infections, go to the immunologist and request an IgA, IgM, IgE panel. They would figured out.

    January 13, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Diane Farr

    Sad....most parents will only have time for the headline. The real news is tucked way down in the article. It will take a 7 days to recover from an ear infection if you take antibiotics; if you don't do anything you just have to add 16 more hours. I would take the extra 16 hours over yeast infections and developing resistance to antibiotics. Your headlines will only help sell more antiobiotics; this article should say that it's PAID ADVERTISING

    January 13, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mira

      Recovery during treatment is MUCH more comfortable than recovery in constant pain, without treatment. It's obvious you've never had a child with a full blown ear infection or perhaps you have and you are not moved by their suffering?

      Within 12 hours of treatment your child will feel better. Untreated, consider that those 7 days plus 16 hours will be marked by considerable pain, especially when the ear drum bursts (maybe even both of them). Then there is the risk of damaging their hearing from these ruptures. I went through this with my child and I wouldn't wish that kind of discomfort and damage on an enemy. Antibiotics have a purpose and are a reasonable approach when used judiciously.

      January 13, 2011 at 20:20 | Report abuse |
  50. Greig

    And in other news, give thirsty children WATER...

    January 13, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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