Kids' Ear Infections: New Guidelines for Treatment
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Another key component of the new guidelines is pain management. "Antibiotics take 24 to 48 hours before they start to improve signs and symptoms, so if a child has fever or pain, it's important to place them on [pain-relieving or fever-reducing medications]," Samuels said.
The guidelines also confirm that amoxicillin should be the antibiotic of choice unless the child is allergic to penicillin, or if the child has been treated with amoxicillin during the past month.
The new guidance from the AAP also states that children, even those with recurrent infections, shouldn't be on long-term daily antibiotics to try to prevent infections from occurring.
Children who have three or more ear infections in a six-month period, or four or more infections in a one-year period (with at least one infection occurring in the previous six months), should be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist. That's because children with such frequent infections may need to have tubes placed in their ears for better fluid drainage.
Finally, the guidelines also recommend staying current on your child's vaccine schedule, particularly with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), and the annual flu shot.
"Studies show that anything that decreases viral infection will decrease the incidence of [ear infections]," Lieberthal said.
Both Lieberthal and Samuels said that parents increasingly understand the importance of trying to reduce the use of antibiotics. First, because it exposes their child to unnecessary risks from side effects if they didn't need an antibiotic. And, second, because parents understand the dangers of developing antibiotic resistance.
"Parents are getting more comfortable with the idea of watching and waiting, as long as they know they can come back for antibiotics if their child's symptoms don't improve," Samuels said.
Learn more about ear infections from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.