Just a note to say one of the best antibiotics is no antibiotic.
A review published in JAMA has found that using antibiotics for ear infections in children is no better than just giving the kiddies pain relief.
Antibiotics did produce some slight benefit but this was lost when side effects like diarrhea and rash were factored in.
Researchers say the review, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows the merit of a watch-and-wait approach to managing ear infections.
Based on their review of more than 100 studies published over the last decade, the researchers were able to quantify the risks and benefits of treatment with antibiotics.
They estimated that for every 100 otherwise healthy children with uncomplicated middle ear infections, about 80 could be expected to improve without antibiotics within about three days.
An additional 12 children could be expected to improve during this time if all were treated with antibiotics, but three to 10 would develop a treatment-related rash and five to 10 would get diarrhea.
In other words, the number of kids who would benefit from treatment with antibiotics is about the same as the number who would develop treatment-related side effects!
If parents are fretful, a physician may provide them with a prescription “just in case.” Most of the contingency prescriptions never get filled.
There is an economic factor too. Antibiotics are prescribed more for ear infections than for any other childhood illness. A 2006 government survey found the average cost for treating ear infections to be $350 per child, totaling $2.8 billion a year, in the USA alone.
That could be quite a savings if doctors would just hold on to the prescription pad!
[Source: Coker, T.R. Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 17, 2010; vol 304: pp 2161-2169]
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