Medical study shows antibiotics have little impact on child ear infections

Giving children antibiotics for ear infections does little to speed their recovery while raising the risk of some side effects, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study found that 80 out of 100 otherwise healthy children would recover from an acute ear infection within a few days if given medication only to relieve pain or fevers. If all 100 were given antibiotics instead, 92 would be better in the same period, said Dr. Tumaini Coker, the study’s lead author.

“But we would also expect three to 10 kids to develop rash and five to 10 to develop diarrhea,” said Coker, a pediatrician at Mattel Children’s Hospital at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Coker noted that the increased number of children in the study who benefited from treatment with antibiotics was similar to the number that could be expected to get side effects from the antibiotic treatment.

“Clinicians and parents need to know the benefits and side effects on how to manage their child’s ear infection,” Coker said.