The Antibiotic Hoax

Most parents are taught to think that if an antibiotic is given to their child for an ear infection, the medicine will help the child to recover. Not necessarily!

Of the 10 million annual antibiotic prescriptions for ear infections, somewhere between 8.5 million and 9.5 million prescriptions didn’t actually help the children, according to the best medical research (and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics).

Put another way, we have to treat between 7 and 20 children with antibiotics for ear infections before one child benefits from the medicine. About 80 percent of ear infections will clear up easily without antibiotics. For those that don’t, often the antibiotic won’t help either. Sometimes it does. In 5 to 14 percent of children, the antibiotics will take one day off the length of the ear infection. But by comparison, up to 15 percent of children who take antibiotics will develop diarrhea and up to 5 percent will have allergic reactions, some of which may be quite serious. Wouldn’t it be great to limit antibiotic use to the children who really need it?

The 2004 AAP/AAFP guidelines aim to do this by improving the accuracy of ear infection diagnosis; by targeting antibiotic use for a select group of children with ear infections; by paying attention to pain relief for all children (especially during the first 24 hours of an infection); by improving our selection and timing of antibiotics; and by taking steps to prevent ear infections in the first place.

A welcome change indeed!

Follow the links below to read the entire story.
Revolution in Ear Infection Treatment
Focus on Pain
The Antibiotic Hoax
The Diagnosis Secret
One Thing is Certain
Vanilla Ear Infections/Red Hot Infections
Who Should Get Antibiotics?
What Does Observe Mean?
The Bottom Line: How well Does Observation Work?

Published on: March 15, 2004
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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