January 13, 2011

Ear Infections in Kids: Medicate or Wait?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Physicians often debate over the best treatment strategy for middle-ear infections in young children. However, a new study shows antibiotics are more effective at relieving symptoms than a placebo.

Most kids with middle-ear infections are treated with antibiotics in the United States. However, guidelines suggest physicians should "watch and wait" for children with mild symptoms to see if they improve. In many European countries, doctors adopt the watchful waiting plan for nearly all middle-ear infections in kids. Previous studies have shown conflicting results when comparing the two strategies.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center assigned 291 children with middle-ear infections to receive either amoxicillin-clavulanate (an antibiotic) or a placebo for 10 days. The children were between 6 months and 23 months of age. Kids in the antibiotic-treated group showed a significant reduction in the severity and duration of their symptoms compared to those in the placebo group.

Authors of the study caution that the benefits of antibiotic treatment must be weighed against the potential side effects. There is also a risk of antimicrobial resistance that must be considered, according to the researchers.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 12, 2011