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Ear Infections: New Thinking on What to Do

Parents who've ever suspected their youngster had an ear infection might have been inclined to call the doctor, schedule a visit and expect an antibiotics prescription.

That's been the ritual. But no more.

"Until eight or nine years ago, we'd treat each ear infection at diagnosis," said Dr. David Tunkel, director of pediatric otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and chairman of the pediatrics committee for the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

"The thought was, you would reduce the symptoms quicker," Tunkel said. "Then it became clear that many children who weren't treated with antibiotics actually did well without the initial treatment."

As a result, Tunkel said, guidelines issued in 2004 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Otolaryngology began to encourage what doctors call an "observation option." That means that children 2 years and older who are otherwise healthy can be observed for a short period of time before being given antibiotics.
 
 

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