You Don't Need Antibiotics for that Ear Infection (Probably)


child and syrupThe American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new, more stringent guidelines for the treatment of ear infections. Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up: You don’t usually need antibiotics for ear infections.

Parents who haven’t had much sleep because of an unhappy, ear-pulling kid are notorious for demanding antibiotics. And doctors often give in—peace of mind is sometimes worth it for worried parents. But an ear infection usually clears up on its own in about 3 days and can be effectively treated with pain medication. In addition to the extra cost, the danger of giving antibiotics when they aren’t needed is that bacteria becomes tougher and will be harder to treat.

Antibiotics are still recommended for kids with severe symptoms such as pain in both ears or a fever over 102.2. And if your child has ever ruptured an eardrum, then they should definitely take antibiotics.

Anecdotal evidence from my own kids bears this out. I took my first son to the doctor for everything when he was a baby. He had ear infections and we did antibiotics regularly. Antibiotics are kind of a pain to give. They usually give your kid diarrhea. I thought I had to treat an ear infection with antibiotics so I did.

My 2nd daughter had only 1 diagnosed ear infection that we treated with antibiotics.

Babies #3 and #4? I’ve never taken them to the doctor for ear infections or given them antibiotics. I’ve kept them home and given them Children’s Tylenol. So I’m either just getting to be a really lazy mom or I’m raising a progressively more infection-tolerant super breed of children. I mean, either of those is possible.

A 3rd and more plausible explanation could be that you don’t need antibiotics for ear infections.