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Recurrent Ear Infections and Persistent Effusion - Topic Overview

If a child has repeat ear infections (three or more ear infections in a 6-month period or four in 1 year), you may want to consider treatment to prevent future infections.

One option used a lot in the past is long-term oral antibiotic treatment. There is debate within the medical community about using antibiotics on a long-term basis to prevent ear infections. Many doctors don't want to prescribe long-term antibiotics, because they are not sure that they really work. Also, when antibiotics are used too often, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. Having tubes put in the ears is another option for treating repeat ear infections.

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Understanding Ear Infections: Diagnosis and Treatment

If you or your child has an earache that is accompanied (in some cases) by a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat and fever, it is likely that the ear pain is due to an ear infection. Your doctor will examine the eardrum with an instrument called an otoscope for signs of infection -- not an easy task if the patient is a fussy infant. The doctor may also check for blockage or filling of the middle ear using a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a little air at the eardrum. This air should cause the...

Read the Understanding Ear Infections: Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

If your child has fluid buildup without infection, you may try watchful waiting. Fluid behind the eardrum after an ear infection is normal. In most children, the fluid clears up within a few months without treatment. Have your child's hearing tested if the fluid persists past 3 months. If hearing is normal, you may choose to keep watching your child without treatment.

If a child has fluid behind the eardrum for more than 3 months and has significant hearing problems, treatment is needed. Sometimes short-term hearing loss occurs, which is especially a concern in children age 2 and younger. Normal hearing is very important when young children are learning to talk.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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