Ear Infections - Treatment Overview
middle ear infections (acute otitis media) involves
home treatment for symptom relief.
Your doctor can give your child
antibiotics, but ear infections often get better
without them. Talk about this with your doctor. Whether you use antibiotics will
depend on how old your child is and how bad the infection is.
Follow-up exams with a doctor are important to check
for persistent infection, fluid behind the eardrum
(otitis media with effusion), or repeat
- If your child has ongoing ear pain, a fever
[101°F (38.33°C) or higher], or
is grumpy or vomiting after 48 hours of treatment, see your
- Even if your child seems well, he or she may need a follow-up visit in
about 4 weeks, especially if your child is young. If fluid behind the eardrum persists for
3 months, the child should have his or her hearing tested.1
The first treatment of a middle
ear infection focuses on relieving pain. The doctor will also assess your child
for any risk of
child has an ear infection and appears very ill, is younger than 2, or is at
risk for complications from the infection, your doctor will likely give
antibiotics right away.
If your child has cochlear implants, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics, because bacterial meningitis is more common in children who have cochlear implants than in children who do not have cochlear implants.
For children ages 2 and older, more options are available. Some doctors prescribe antibiotics for
all ear infections, because it's hard to tell which ear infections will clear up
on their own. Other doctors ask parents to watch their child's
symptoms for a couple of days, since most ear infections get better without treatment. Antibiotic treatment has
only minimal benefits in reducing pain and fever. The cost of medicine and
possible side effects are factors doctors consider before giving antibiotics.
Also, many doctors are concerned about the growing number of bacteria that are
resistant to antibiotics because of frequent use of
If your child's
condition improves in the first couple of days, treating the symptoms at home
may be all that is needed. Some steps you can take at home to treat ear infection
- Using pain relievers. Pain relievers such as
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (such as
Advil, Motrin, and Aleve) and acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) can help make
your child more comfortable. Giving your child something for pain before
bedtime is especially important. Follow all instructions on the label. If you give medicine to your baby, follow your doctor’s advice about what amount to give. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20, because its use has been linked to
Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- Applying heat to the ear, which may help relieve the
earache. Use a warm washcloth or a heating pad. Do not allow your child to go
to bed with a heating pad, because he or she could get burned. Use a heating
pad only if your child is old enough to tell you if it's getting too
- Encouraging rest. Encourage your child to rest to let his or
her body fight the infection. Arrange for quiet play
- Using eardrops. Doctors often prescribe pain-relieving
eardrops for earache. Don't use eardrops without a doctor's advice, especially
if your child has ear tubes. For more information, see
the safest way to insert eardrops .