Earaches are a common problem for children, and can leave your child in severe pain that often seems difficult to treat. Many parents are unsure whether to provide their child with antibiotics or not, especially when there are fears that antibiotics for children are overprescribed or even potentially damaging to their long-term health. Here is an overview of what your doctor will do to determine whether your child needs antibiotics and what your alternatives are.
Antibiotics and Earaches
For many parents and doctors, there is an urge to immediately provide a child with an earache with antibiotics. Desperate parents want to ensure their child isn't in pain anymore, and many doctors assume that antibiotics are quite simply the simplest way to quickly treat a child. Unfortunately, there is some evidence that the overuse of antibiotics not only leads to the development of superbugs that are highly resistant to antibiotics, but that antibiotics can also dramatically change the bacterial flora present inside a child's gut, leading to a range of health issues.
Tests Performed on the Ear
Antibiotics are still a vital medical treatment option, and for many earaches they are effective. However, your doctor should perform a number of tests to help determine whether antibiotics are truly necessary for your child. If the infection isn't serious or looks like it's on the course of improving, you might want to forgo using antibiotics.
Your child doctor should first examine your child with an otoscope to check for blockages inside the ear canal or other signs of infection, such as inflammation. Child doctors also often employ a tympanometry test, which can check for fluid inside the middle ear with sound and air pressure.
Many earaches are caused by a virus, in which case antibiotics provide no help at all. However, it's difficult to determine what the root cause of an earache is from examining the ear and other tests can be inconclusive. However, if your child is also concurrently diagnosed with strep throat, then it's highly likely that your child's earache is stemming from bacteria, in which case antibiotics might be appropriate.
Time, Rest and Home Remedies
Your child might benefit simply from getting enough rest, fluids and simply allowing the earache to pass its course. Applying heat to the ear with a hotpad, administering painkillers like paracetamol, and gargling with salt water can clear the Eustachian tubes present in the ear and reduce swelling in the throat area, which is often a co-symptom of a earache.
In most cases, it's best to try and wait for an earache to pass naturally if you can, but if you feel antibiotics are necessary, a 10-day course of amoxicillin is the most common prescription treatment for earaches.
It's likely your child will eventually experience an earache, but speaking with a doctor at a clinic like Pediatric Associates of Alexandria about the pros and cons about different earache treatment is an excellent way to stay informed and ensure that you aren't giving your child too many antibiotics during the childhood.