kids

Ear infections - the seemingly small sickness that spells big discomfort.

NPS MedicineWise
Thanks to our brand partner, NPS MedicineWise

My middle son Giovanni was one of those kids who was prone to recurrent ear infections. I remember the first time he developed a middle ear infection and was crying and clearly in so much pain. He was four and panicked, I rushed to the doctor to find out what to do.

I was prescribed antibiotics however he refused to take them. My mum brain went something like this…

If he doesn’t take his antibiotics his ear infection won’t clear up and the infection will spread and he will die.

Except he didn’t die. He got better. With some rest and TLC his middle ear infection cleared up on its own and he was back at school in a few days. Pain relief is often all that is needed to get them through those few days of illness.

There’s nothing worse than seeing our kids sick. Once the hugs stop working and we realise we need to take them to the doctor we’re willing to do anything needed to make them feel better.

"My middle son Giovanni was one of those kids who was prone to recurrent ear infections." Image: iStock.

The first few times my children had ear infections we often ended up with antibiotics but that’s less likely to be the case now. Treatment for ear infections has changed. Antibiotics as it turns out, often don’t really make too much of a difference as to how quickly a child recovers.

Most ear infections will clear up in a few days with lots of TLC and pain relief if needed. I’ve also realised it’s important to be aware of the potential side effects (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and rash) of antibiotics when considering the risks and benefits of taking them in any particular situation

ADVERTISEMENT

Antibiotics, however, may be recommended in some situations – for example when young children are unwell with fever, lethargy or vomiting. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more likely to need antibiotics because they can be at increased risk of hearing loss due to recurrent and severe ear infections.

These days, when we have ear infections my doctor normally recommends plenty of rest and medicine for pain relief when required. If my kids don’t get better in a few days, we go back and figure out what to do from there.

I’ve noticed lots of posters at my local medical centre talking about “superbugs” and “antibiotic resistance” and it makes sense to avoid using antibiotics when they aren’t needed. Then when we really do need to take them they are more likely to be effective.

"It makes sense to avoid using antibiotics when they aren’t needed." Image: iStock.

Dr. Frank R Jones from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says middle ear infection is common in kids presenting to their GP. Their latest recommendation is to avoid antibiotics if possible in non-Indigenous kids over 2. “Regardless of whether or not both eardrums are red or bulging, antibiotics do not reduce pain at 24 hours. In many situations the small benefits of antibiotic use must be weighed up against the risk of potential side-effects such as rash, diarrhoea, or vomiting.”

ADVERTISEMENT

I trust my doctor to give me the best advice for my kids and I always know that if my children don’t recover from their middle ear infections in a few days I can go back and we can figure out what to do next.

Often parents ask for antibiotics because their children develop green snot or phlegm, they are worried their other kids will get sick, they need to get back to work, they think antibiotics are the reason their children recovered in the past or that antibiotics will speed up recovery.

"In many situations the small benefits of antibiotic use must be weighed up against the risk of potential side-effects such as rash, diarrhoea, or vomiting.” Image: iStock.

This is not the case.

You know you have the right GP for your family when they patiently answer all of your paranoid questions about your kids. Knowing I can ask any questions I want without being laughed out of the office is so reassuring.

These are the five questions you should ask your doctor or other health professional when you or your children are sick:

  1. Do I really need this treatment, test or procedure?
  2. What are the risks or side effects?
  3. Are there simpler or safer options – can a change in lifestyle choices help?
  4. What happens if I don’t do anything?
  5. What are the costs involved?

My doctor understands how much I love my children and he knows I want what’s best for them. That’s why I go to him with any questions I have about antibiotics, ear infections and other childhood illnesses.

When in doubt, ask your doctor.

How do you treat ear infections?

00:00 / ???