According to a study published, using antibiotics to treat ear infections in children is only slightly more effective than offering no treatment at all.
Infections of the middle ear are the most common childhood infection for which antibiotics are prescribed, said the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A 2006 study showed that an average of $350 (about R2,900) per child is spent on treating such ear infections, known as acute otitis media (AOM), for a total of $2.8 billion (about R19 billion) spent per year.
Minimal benefits of antibiotics
"Our findings reinforce the existing knowledge that the best antibiotic treatment for common childhood ear infections may be no antibiotic treatment at all," said lead author of the study Tumaini Coker.
"Of 100 average-risk children with AOM, approximately 80 would likely get better within about three days without antibiotics," the study said.
If all 100 were given an antibiotic, 92 would "likely improve," but other painful side effects would pop up, like a rash in three to 10 of those children and diarrhoea in five to 10 of them, it said.
"Clinicians need to weigh these risks (including possible long-term effects on antibiotic resistance) and benefits before prescribing immediate antibiotics for uncomplicated AOM," the study authors said.
The study took place over 10 years and was carried out by researchers from the Southern California Evidence Based Practice Centre. It examined previously published research at the request of the American Academy of Paediatrics as part of its effort to update practice guidelines for treating ear infections in young children.
(Sapa, November 2010)