By the time your child will reach his 3rd birthday, he had already suffered at least once from an ear infection – this is what the statistics provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services say. But is this real? Has your child really suffered from an ear infection or that pain is due to another condition? And, most important, are antibiotics the only way to cure this condition? We're going to find out together!
Why kids are more prone to ear infections?
Kids are prone to ear infections, compared to adults and this costs the US healthcare system almost $3 billion each year. Plus, it makes parents anxious, seeing their child in pain. When you check the statistics, you will see ear infections are the most common reasons physicians prescribe antibiotics to children below 12 years of age, which is definitely not a great fact.
Before we discover why antibiotics are not the best treatment for ear infection, you need to know why kids are prone to developing this condition.
In adults, the ear canal, called Eustachian tube, is inclined, which makes it easier for the fluid in the lymph nodes to drain out of the ear. In children, the canal is shorter and straight, which prevents the fluid from draining. The fluid builds up in the lymph nodes and travels back to the ear, putting pressure on the ear drum, which swells, leading to pain. If the fluid doesn't manage to drain itself, it becomes infected, as bacteria and viruses from the throat can easily interact with it. A simple cold can lead to an ear infection, as well as bottle-feeding, allergies, exposure to smoking and the child's specific sensitivities.
Most parents overlook ear infection home treatment and rush the child to the doctor, to have the antibiotics prescribed. This is not a good approach.
Why antibiotics are not the best treatment for ear infection?
To find out if antibiotics are the best treatment for an ear infection you need to check the statistics again. CDC says 99% of the kids who reach the doctor with an ear infection are prescribed antibiotics; however, 88% of the kids who develop an ear infection get better on their own, helped by ear infection home treatments.
The use of antibiotics on ear infections is often unnecessary because, as we've seen, some of these infections are caused by viruses, which don't react in front of antibiotics. Even those infections caused by bacteria should be first allowed to cure on themselves, because the use of antibiotics first hand is now leading to a disturbing side effect: it causes bacteria to develop new strains, resistant to antibiotics.
An article in the Consumer Report explains how the use of antibiotics on ear infections can actually cause more ear infections, by allowing stronger bacteria to develop inside the ear!
This is why AAP has developed a new approach to ear infections, based on the principle “wait and see”.
The “wait and see” approach to ear infections is the best solution
AAP's new approach is not new – it was developed in 2014 – but only nowadays doctors and parents are gradually embracing it, as they understood antibiotics are to be avoided in the treatment for ear infection. This concept asks for lots of patience from the parents, as well as from the doctor. AAP advises parents to wait and see how the condition of their child is evolving. Unless the child has over 102 degree fever and severe symptoms of runny nose and ear pain, they should not call the doctor for an antibiotic prescription. Waiting 48 hours to see how the condition of the child evolves is a safe way to cure any ailment, especially ear infections. This is because the doctor needs to be sure there is an infection in the patient before prescribing any treatment. Tests, such as ear swab cultures, are the only way to find out for sure if there is an infection and if it's sensitive to antibiotics.
Are you really dealing with an ear infection?
This is the main question you need to answer before you rush to the doctor for an antibiotic prescription. Most of the times, the child doesn't even have an infection, but because a swab test is the only way to find out, the doctor will just over-diagnose the child.
In the case of a real ear infection, the side of the head will swell and present redness, the patient will be feverish and the ear will run pus.
However, if these symptoms are not present, a painful ear can be a sign of fluid buildup or teething. These are only two simple examples, but any discomfort felt by your child in his ear can be a symptom of a completely different ailment, not an infection.
This is why it's best to wait and see: during the 48 hours, which are safe to wait. You can do a swab test and check if the pain, redness and swelling are reducing by themselves.
Education and information are the keys in such situations: parents are anxious, because no one says it's easy to see your child in pain, but if they are informed on the effects of antibiotics and the fact they don't relieve the child's pain, they will be willing to wait and see what happens.
Only when everyone, both doctor and parents, has the written proof they are dealing with an ear infection, they should turn to antibiotics. Until then, home treatments and remedies work great in relieving the pain and the overall discomfort.
Name: Alfred C. Bailey
Professional Content writer at Ear Doc
Bio: Hey everyone, I'm a 26 years old blogger and content writer Lives in United States [IL]. By profession I’m Professional Content/blog writer and my favorite niches are Health and Fitness.