New guidelines for treating kids ear infections

February 26, 2013 4:24:53 AM PST
Health officials say 75 percent of kids can expect to battle an ear infection before the age of 3, but often antibiotics are given when they aren't necessary.

In an effort to lessen the use of antibiotics, The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines for pediatricians and parents to follow.

The decision of when to give a child antibiotics for an ear infection is not black and white and probably never will be.

These new guidelines more clearly define when you should treat so you can see where your doctor's coming from and make the decision together.

Most kids with an ear infection?don't feel so wonderful and when it's your child that's feeling lousy, you want it fixed fast.

"Some of them are viral, which means they'll go away on their own. But a lot of them are bacterial, which means they'll need medication," said Dr. Emma Raizman, Pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Hospital.

So when do you treat, and when do you wait? New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics make recommendations based on how severe the symptoms are and how long they've lasted.

For children over the age of 6 months, antibiotics should be given for an infection in one or both ears if accompanied by a fever higher than 102.2 and if the pain is moderate or severe and lasts more than 48 hours.

So it's important for parents to watch for symptoms and when they started.

"Sometimes they'll stick their fingers in their ears. Sometimes they'll rub their ear on the carpet if they're young. Sometimes they'll actually tell you or they'll start tugging on their ears," adds. Dr. Raizman.

For less severe symptoms where only one ear is involved, watchful waiting can be offered instead of antibiotics.

Compared to previous guidelines issued in 2004, the new recommendations are more specific, that could mean fewer antibiotic prescriptions for your child.

The overuse of antibiotics leads to resistant bacteria, and puts your child at an unnecessary risk of side effects.

But if your child has any symptoms, you should still head to the pediatrician sooner than later. The only way to know how bad it really is to look inside.

The guidelines also say that if your child gets ear infections often, doctors should not give antibiotics as prevention- the child should see a specialist and may need to have tubes placed for better drainage.

And if the plan is watchful waiting where you're don't do anything for now, you should have a follow-up plan with your doctor that if the symptoms don't get better in the next 48 to 72 hours, then you will start antibiotics.

That should make the idea of waiting a little more comfortable.

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