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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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Could Your Child Have an Ear Infection?

Even newbie parents can spot diaper rash or a runny nose with no problem, but ear infections may come with only a whisper of symptoms. Yet three-quarters of children will get one by age 3. "An ear infection happens when you get infected fluid or pus behind the eardrum," says Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. She is a pediatrician in Atlanta and editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Baby & Child Health. The most common cause? Colds. When secretions get trapped in the middle ear, viruses or bacteria...

Read the Could Your Child Have an Ear Infection? 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.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 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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