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With chronic ear infections, the physical structure of a child's ears, nose, and throat may be the problem. In these cases, your doctor may recommend one of two procedures: ear ventilation tubes or removal of the adenoids – a clump of tissue in the upper throat, behind the nose.
Most ear infections go away on their own within a few days. That's why experts recommend that doctors wait two to three days before prescribing antibiotics in certain cases of an acute ear infection.1
Depending on your child's condition, your doctor may recommend medical or surgical treatment. Ear infections are the most common cause of hearing loss in children, which can interfere with learning and speech development. In some cases, this hearing loss may be permanent.
If the infection is from bacteria, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics (antibacterial drugs). If the infection is from a virus, antibiotics won’t help. Using antibiotics when they aren't necessary may me harmful and can lead to the emergence of bacteria that are antibiotic resistant.2
Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine to help make you or your child more comfortable while the virus runs its course.
If the ear infection keeps coming back or lasts for a long time, your doctor may suggest surgery.
Surgical treatments include the insertion of an ear ventilation tube (vent tube) in the eardrum to let fluid drain, or the removal of swollen or inflamed adenoids (adenoidectomy) where bacteria can breed and block natural drainage into the throat.
Diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Management of Acute Otitis Media. Pediatrics 2004;113(5):1451-65.
Centers for Disease Control. Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work. Frequently Asked Questions. Available at www.cdc.gov. Accessed April 2, 2008.
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