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All About Ear Infections

Danger of Misusing Antibiotics

Before considering a myringotomy, many doctors prescribe a long course of antibiotics as a preventive measure. This can reduce the number of infections a child gets, but it also promotes the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To help minimize the overuse of antibiotics, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that antibiotics be withheld if there's fluid but no sign of infection or fever.

Some pediatricians, however, will cave in to a parent's request to prescribe antibiotics even when they're not warranted, simply because the parent expects a prescription. It's important that you don't pressure your pediatrician to prescribe antibiotics if they're not necessary. If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, it's vital that your child completes the entire course. Not finishing a round of antibiotics can set the stage for antibiotic resistance.

What You Can Do to Prevent Ear Infections:

  • Breast-feed your baby for at least six months. Infants who are exclusively formula-fed for the first six months have a 70 percent greater risk of ear infections. If you must bottle-feed, hold your baby's head above stomach level to help keep the eustachian tubes from getting blocked.
  • Avoid group daycare during your child's first year, if possible. A recent Journal of Pediatrics study found that around 65 percent of babies in daycare suffered at least six respiratory infections in their first year, compared with only 29 percent of babies who were cared for at home.
  • Avoid smoke-filled environments. Children who inhale second-hand smoke are at a higher risk for ear infections.

What to Do If Your Child Does Get an Ear Infection:

  • Don't feed your infant while he or she is lying down (this increases ear pressure and pain).
  • Give your child over-the-counter acetaminophen (not aspirin) to help diminish her discomfort.
  • Try placing several warm (not hot!) drops of mullin or garlic oil -- both are natural antibiotics -- in your child's ear (but check with your pediatrician before placing anything in your child's ear).
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