When a child is in pain and crying, a loving parent wants nothing more than to make the pain go away. Ear infections can be very painful and often a parent will request antibiotics to treat the infection from their pediatrician or family doctor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines for identifying and treating childhood ear infections and would like to see fewer antibiotics prescribed.
The guidelines more clearly define the signs and symptoms that indicate an infection that needs treatment. They also encourage more observation, with follow-ups, instead of antibiotics. This would also include some children under the age of two. Most children with ear infections get well on their own and can be safely monitored for a few days.
For children with recurrent infections, the guidelines advise physicians and parents on when it is time to see a specialist.
"Between a more accurate diagnosis and the use of observation, we think we can greatly decrease the use of antibiotics," said the lead author of the new guidelines, Dr. Allan Lieberthal, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Panorama City, in Los Angeles, and a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
The guidelines say that there are definitely times when antibiotics should be prescribed such as when children have a severe ear infection. Severe is defined as when a child has either a fever of 102.2 degrees or higher or is in significant pain. He or she has a ruptured ear drum with drainage, or an infection in both ears for kids two years or younger. These account for fewer cases but studies have shown that children benefit from antibiotics given right away.
It's been since 2004 since the last set of guidelines were issued. Those guidelines stimulated new research that has provided evidence for the new AAP guidelines that will appear in the March issue of Pediatrics