New Guidelines for Treating Ear Infections

JOPLIN, MO-- Ear infections are all too common in young patients.  But how pediatricians treat ear pain may be changing.

"By about age 1, about 60% of kids are going to have had an ear infection, at least one. And once you increase that age to 3 years, we're talking more like 80%.And by the time the kids are 5, probably close to 100%." But Freeman Pediatrician Amanda Dickerson says it can be tough for parents to tell the difference be an ear infection and other types of ear pain. "In the older kids, it's easy - they tell you their ear hurts. That's pretty reliable. But in the preverbal kids, you're going to see more ear rubbing, ear tugging. They might have more fussiness.  You might see more temper tantrums or decreased sleep."

Antibiotics can do the job when it's an infection  - but Dickerson says new guidelines emphasize not to overuse those drugs. "It's okay to watch and see what happens. 70 - 80% of those just middle ear fluid collections will actually go away on their own. They'll drain. The kid'll get better."

Dickerson adds that limiting the use of antibiotics helps to ensure bacteria don't become antibiotic resistant. "If that continues to happen, as a population, we're going to a bad place where we're going to be in that pre-antibiotic era where people are going to have bacterial infections that we don' t have anything to throw at. And that's scary. Because you know, your parents get sick, your grandparents get sick. They get one of those bacteria we don't have much we can do. There's not an unlimited amount of antibiotics out there unless we come up with new ones."

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