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Treatment for Ear Infections

Most viral ear infections clear up on their own without the need for antibiotics. Treating your child’s discomfort and allowing their body to heal itself is often all that is needed.

You can follow these steps to help treat the pain:

  • Apply a warm cloth to the affected ear
  • Hold, cradle, and console the child
  • Offer a pacifier
  • Discuss with your healthcare provider the use of over-the-counter pain-relief drops for ears, or ask your provider to prescribe eardrops to relieve the pain. DO NOT use eardrops if your child already has drainage from their ear unless prescribed by a healthcare provider.
  • Administer children’s ibuprofen or pediatric acetaminophen for pain or fever. DO NOT give aspirin to your child because it could lead to other health issues.

If your child is younger than six months and has a fever or other symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately. If they’re older than six months, have a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and show no improvement or symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider to determine if medical treatment is needed.

Many healthcare providers no longer prescribe antibiotics for every ear infection in an effort to prevent resistance to antibiotics. Your child’s healthcare provider is more likely to prescribe antibiotics if your child:

  • Is under age two
  • Has a fever
  • Appears sick
  • Has a respiratory infection, or
  • Has not improved within 24 to 48 hours

If the antibiotic isn’t working within 48 to 72 hours, contact your provider. A different antibiotic or other treatment may be needed.

If ear infections don’t clear up with medical treatment, or if your child has had many ear infections over a short period of time, for example, four in six months, your healthcare provider may refer your child to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, called an ENT. The ENT specialist, or otolaryngologist, may recommend pressure equalization tubes. Although, tubes are effective in reducing chronic otitis media, ear tubes are not always a permanent cure.