Antibiotics: Pros and cons
Antibiotics have been proven to be successful most of the time at treating certain types of ear infections. When prescribed appropriately, they will help the infection clear up a couple of days sooner and with the possibility of less pain for your child. Not all ear infections will clear up without antibiotics, so in some cases they are necessary. Antibiotics can also help prevent complications that can be more dangerous and severe, like meningitis, that can develop from an untreated ear infection.
However, some people worry about antibiotics causing their child to develop “super bugs” which are hard to treat and very dangerous. Because of the overuse of antibiotics, there have been several strains of pneumococcous (the main cause of ear infections) which have shown up in the United States that are resistant to antibiotics. When you were a child, just about any infection could be treated with antibiotics such as amoxicillin, however those same antibiotics today are being proven to not get rid of ear infections in some cases. There are even reports of stronger antibiotics, given intravenously, that are no longer effective.
Other potential problems from antibiotics, such as Augmentin, are that in rare cases it has been known to cause tooth discoloration. When given to an infant or toddler repeatedly, one or more of their baby teeth may turn grey. This discoloration does not affect the adult teeth since they do not start forming in the gums until the child is about three years old. If your baby gets discoloration of their teeth from Augmentin you may want to talk to your dentist and pediatrician about what other antibiotics can be prescribed to help with your child’s ear infection without causing the discoloration to the permanent teeth.
The wait-and-see approach
Many doctors today will tell parents to simply observe their child for 48 hours to see if the ear infection clears up on its’ own. In fact, studies have shown that most ear infections do clear up on their own without antibiotics within 48 hours, thus cutting down on the overuse of antibiotics. Because children under the age of two have a higher risk of developing complications from an ear infection, if it important you contact your doctor to see if he recommends the wait-and-see approach based on your child's overall health and history.
Alternative ways to help heal ear infections
There are other ways that you can help heal and even prevent ear infections in your little one. One way to prevent them is by giving your child the pneumococcal vaccine, which has shown to reduce the number of ear infections in babies.
Providing pain relief to your child will often help improve their mood and make them feel better. Talk to your pediatrician to see what form of pain relief is recommended. Many parents have found that placing a warm compress over their child's ear helps to relieve the pain. If it is a virus that is causing the ear infection and not a bacteria, then the antibiotics won’t work, but rest can do wonders. As with any virus, rest is necessary for your child to heal and get better, so if a parent can get their child to slow down it may help them heal faster. Many doctors may also suggest that you buy ear drops for your child which can help dry the inner ear and clear up the infection.