February 22, 2009

Child Ear Infections A Health Risk

A charity says, that the future health of thousands of U.K. children could be affected due to their ear infections if not treated properly.

The antibiotics are given routinely in many cases, but often do not work, according to Deafness Research U.K.

The charity also said that children whose hearing is regularly affected might suffer development problems.  However, many parents are unaware of what to do.

It is vital to seek GP advice about recurrent infections, said the RNID.

Last year, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published a report that suggested that as many as 200,000 children each year suffer from repeated middle ear infections, which is a condition known as otitis media, or "glue ear".

A senior lecturer in general practice at Southampton University, Dr. Ian Williamson, said that too many GPs turned to antibiotics to treat the condition.

He said, "Ear conditions and their root causes are not necessarily best tackled by antibiotics."

"We are concerned that time pressure on the NHS, combined with a deeply held cultural myth by the public that antibiotics are a cure-all, means that many children and parents aren't receiving the best advice possible on how to treat and prevent ear infections."

Williamson is telling the NHS to take a more "holistic" approach, so that children suffering recurrent infections are identified quickly so other treatments can be provided.

This includes the insertion of tubes called "grommets," which allow the fluid that is trapped in the middle ear to drain.

If other treatments are not considered, children will suffer problems with speech in language development because of their impaired hearing, according to Williamson.

Deafness Research U.K. also warned that overuse of antibiotics might help breed resistant bacteria and kill "good bacteria" in the nose and throat that actually helped prevent infection taking hold.

Chief executive of the charity, Vivienne Michael, said, "Part of the problem is that parents lack knowledge about what to do if their child has recurring or persistent ear problems."

"It is important parents should be aware that antibiotics only help a small proportion of children with ear infections, and are not recommended at all in the treatment of glue ear."

Although glue ear is very uncomfortable, it tended to clear up on its own in most children, said Angela King, a senior audiology specialist at RNID.

She added, "However, up to 5% of children get persistent glue ear or repeated bouts of it, making it difficult to hear what parents or teachers are saying."

"If not treated properly, this can cause long-term hearing loss."

"We would urge any parents to seek advice from their GP in the first instance and if problems persist seek a referral to an ear specialist," said King.


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