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Health Team

Child ear infections can get antibiotics sometimes

Posted January 13, 2011 11:18 a.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2011 6:22 p.m. EST

Millions of children have ear infections each year, and whether to give them antibiotics can be a tough decision for doctors and parents.

Evidence from two new studies, though, shows that antibiotics might be the best bet for some younger children.

Doctors looked at hundreds of children between 6 and 35 months old who had ear infections.

Among children who took antibiotics, symptoms were far less severe and cleared up faster, according to the research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctors, though, warn that there are side effects to consider.

"We also get a lot more diarrhea, yeast infections, thrush, diaper rash, allergies and resistant bugs in return, so it's a balance. It's a choice," said Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, a pediatric ear-nose-and-throat doctor with Long Island College Hospital.

Ear infections are the most common reason that children end up at the doctor's. Three out of four children will have at least one ear infection by the time they are 3.

Rosenfeld said that the general rule of thumb is that children under age 2 with severe ear infections should get antibiotics, but most others should watch and wait.

"Most ear infections get better on their own, no matter what you do," he said.