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New Findings About Treating Childhood Ear Infections

One of the most common childhood illnesses is ear infection. The standard treatment is a prescription for an antibiotic. But now a new study suggests a safer alternative.

There's no doubt ear infections are painful. Here is why: when the middle ear becomes infected, it becomes red and swollen.

Doctors frequently prescribe an antibiotic, but a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows they may not have to.

Dr. Joseph Gigante of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital explains. "About 75 to 80 percent of kids who have ear infections will get better without antibiotic treatment."

Dr. David Spiro at Oregon Health and Science University was one of the researchers who conducted the study. "Antibiotics do have side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea, and overprescription leads to an increase in resistance of bacteria."

In the study, parents of children with ear infections were given a prescription for antibiotics.

Half of them were told to get the medication immediately. The other half were told to wait two days before filling the prescription.

To reduce the children's fever and pain, parents gave them ibuprofen and ear drops.

Dr. Phil Fischer at the Mayo Clinic says parents and pediatricians will be interested to hear the news. "One of the most exciting things about this study is that it can make parents more comfortable not giving antibiotics for ear infections."

Doctors have long said it is best to save antibiotics for when children and adults really need them.

This study should make it easier to adhere to that principle.