New guidelines for treating ear infections

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SARASOTA - There are new guidelines being issued for treating kids' ear infections, and they could end up helping everyone. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued the new guidelines Monday as part of an overall effort to curb the use of unnecessary prescription antibiotics.

Nine month old Calvin has never had something that millions of other kids have.  "We have never had an ear infection," said his mother, Ciera Coleman. 

But for the millions of children that do get ear infections every year, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now taking a new approach for treatment.

"It might not be a bad idea, to sit tight for twenty-four hours if the symptoms are not severe to see what happens," said pediatric otolaryngologist Dr. Roger Shea, who agrees with the new guidelines.

He says that it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between fluid in the ear, which doesn't require antibiotics, from an actual infection, which does require a prescription.

"It has to have fever, it has to have pain, has to have some overt signs that there is infection," said Shea.

The bigger issue at hand is this: curbing the over-prescribing of antibiotics, which is already leading to drug-resistant bacteria that can affect everyone.

"We see a lot more resistant bacteria than we ever have before, definitely it is on the rise," said Shea.

If a child's immune system can fight an ear infection on it's own, it will usually do so within seventy-two hours.

"The European medical society have clearly looked that even in face of acute otitis media [middle ear infection], about sixty percent will get better without antibiotics," said Shea.

The new guidelines also note that children who breast feed had a reduction in overall ear infections, something that Colemanagrees with, noting that if her son does get an ear infection, reaching for antibiotics may not be her first choice.

"If we did come across that we probably would let it ride out," said Coleman.

Experts say if a child has a fever higher than 102 degrees or a ruptured eardrum, then antibiotics should be started immediately.