The benefits of giving antibiotics to children with ear infections are offset by their side effects, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. With side effects taken into account, children with ear infections who take antibiotics are no better off than children who do not receive them, the study concludes.
Researchers found that 80 of 100 children would recover from an ear infection within a few days if given medication to reduce pain and fever but not antibiotics, while 92 of 100 children would be better if given antibiotics. However, 3 to 10 of the children given antibiotics would develop a rash, while 5 to 10 would develop diarrhea. So the number of kids likely to develop side effects is about equal to the number of children who might benefit from antibiotics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is revising its guidelines for treating ear infections that cause pain and fever. New guidelines are expected to be issued in 2011. Widespread use of antibiotics is causing the development of bacteria that are resistant to them. Antibiotics are not effective in treating illnesses caused by a virus. Ear infections can be caused either by viruses or bacteria.