Trying to soothe a fussy infant or crying toddler with an ear infection has kept many a parent up at night, counting the minutes until the doctor’s office or urgent care opens. However, a growing number of studies are showing that treatment may not be necessary for most ear infections.
“Research has shown that children who receive antibiotics and children who don’t receive antibiotics recover from an ear infection in about the same amount of time,” said Whitney Horsley, MD, from Mid‑Valley Children’s Clinic. “We know that antibiotics can have long‑term health effects so we try to reserve them for only the most persistent infections in older children.”
If you suspect your child has an ear infection, it’s still a good idea to contact a doctor. Infants or children with chronic ear infections may need an office visit. Also, because ear infection and infection from COVID‑19 can show some of the same symptoms, it is best to check in to see if your child should also be tested for coronavirus. Many clinics have an advice nurse who can help determine if your child needs to be seen right away, or if you can take care of them at home.
If your child has an ear infection, Dr. Horsley recommends the following steps:
- For children ages 2 or older, an over‑the‑counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with discomfort. Ask your child’s doctor before using ear drops or essential oils in the ear canal.
- Use a warm or cold compress to ease ear pain. Keep the temperature comfortable for your child, and use a thin towel to protect their skin.
- Most ear infections start to improve after two or three days. If your child’s symptoms aren’t getting better, check back in with their doctor.