Some doctors may recommend the use of daily antibiotics for
prevention (prophylaxis) of ear infection if your child has many recurrent ear
infections. Talk to your doctor about this. Antibiotics can reduce by 1 the
number of infections that would have occurred without antibiotics. If your
child has at least 3 ear infections in a 6-month period or has 4 ear infections
in 1 year, your doctor may prescribe a low dose of antibiotics for your child
to take daily during the season when he or she is prone to ear infections. The
risks of taking daily medicines include:
- Possible side effects from the medicine, such as
nausea or diarrhea.
- The cost of the medicine.
- The risk
of developing bacteria that are resistant to the prophylactic medicine.
In certain cases, long-term use of antibiotics may be just as
effective as ear tubes in preventing infection. The value of long-term
antibiotic use should be weighed against the risk that your child may develop
bacteria that are resistant to the medicine.
If your child has persistent infection in spite of multiple
antibiotics, your doctor may wish to remove fluid from the middle ear space
(myringotomy). This fluid will be sent to a lab for culture to identify which
bacteria are causing the infection and help identify the best antibiotic to use
to fight the infection. Ear tubes may be placed at this time to help drain the
In some children, fluid behind the eardrum (effusion) lasts for
longer than 3 months after an ear infection. If hearing loss is present,
antibiotics or ear tubes may be appropriate treatment choices. If your child
still has fluid and hearing loss after 4 to 6 months, your doctor may recommend
ear tubes. Ask your doctor about the long-term risks and benefits of continued
observation, antibiotic use, and ear tubes.