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Baby Has an Ear Infection

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Those Pesky, Recurring Cases continued...

"I warn families that it's not 100% ," says Park. "It results in a 50-60% reduction in the number of infections, but by reducing the number, it also reduces the need for antibiotics. And the tubes are very effective in preventing fluid from reaccumulating and thus, optimizing hearing."

Most tubes fall out by themselves in 6 to 18 months, as the hole closes. However, in about 1% of cases, the hole may not close on its own, requiring another surgical procedure to patch it.

A new surgical technique that uses a laser to make a hole in the eardrum doesn't require a general anesthetic, but the technique is controversial because it only lasts several weeks and may have to be repeated.

"It may be beneficial for the child who has had one ear infection where the fluid hasn't cleared and you need to have that opening last longer than a couple of days," says Magit. "But in the child who's had recurrent problems, it may not be as helpful."

And some children react adversely to the procedure, which is done in a doctor's office. "Even though they numb up the ear, it does make a loud noise, or the child may still feel pressure or even some discomfort," says Park.

Some parents claim they've found relief going the nontraditional route. Although there have been few large-scale studies and most traditional doctors remain doubtful, one study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics showed that 80% of the 400 children in New Rochelle, N.Y., who received regular gentle adjustments to their cervical vertebrae or skull didn't have another ear infection within a six-month period.

How to Avoid Infection in the First Place

"Parents frequently ask what they can do to reduce their child's risk of ear infection, and at the top of the list I'd put day care," says David Darrow, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va.

He means avoiding day care, which isn't practical for most parents. If it's a must, doctors suggest that you try to find a setting with no more than five or six children, to reduce your baby's risk of getting ear infections to about the same as that of a child who stays home.

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