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Ear Infection Health Center

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Rx Ear Drops for Kids With Recurrent Ear Infection

Finds drops may be preferred remedy when special 'ear tubes' are needed


Seventy-six children were put into the antibiotic/steroid eardrop group, while another 77 children were assigned to receive oral antibiotics. The final 77 children were assigned to the observation group. After two weeks, the children's ears were examined again.

The combination eardrops were significantly more effective than the other two practices, the investigators found.

"Next to being the most effective in treating acute ear discharge in children with tympanostomy tubes, we also found that the increase in disease-specific health-related quality-of-life scores was largest in children treated with eardrops," said van Dongen.

Side effects were mild and no complications of middle-ear infections were reported, van Dongen added.

A study published earlier this month in the journal Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery found that eardrops worked better than oral antibiotics for the painful condition known as swimmer's ear.

However, one expert cautioned that the current study's findings are not applicable to most children with ear infections.

"This study showed -- in this very select group of kids -- that eardrops were much better than oral antibiotics and much better than observation," said Dr. Ruby Roy, a pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.

Because the children in the study have ear tubes, it allows the eardrops to travel right to the source of the infection, Roy said. In kids without ear tubes, this isn't the case, she added.

"Not using systemic antibiotics when you don't need to means that you've protected this small group of kids from side effects like stomach irritation and diarrhea," noted Roy.

It's also known that antibiotic pills help promote resistant bacteria.

Van Dongen said he disagrees with doctors who advise parents to wait until ear drainage has gone on for a week before contacting their child's doctor.

"We would recommend parents to contact a physician when otorrhea occurs . . . so that children can be treated with eardrops shortly after the onset of ear discharge, and improve more quickly and have fewer recurrences in following months," said van Dongen.

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