DENVER (CBS4) – A new study shows it may be better to skip the antibiotics for childhood ear infections. The research shows many earaches will clear up on their own, and in some cases, antibiotics may do more harm than good.

“You have a child who is in pain from an ear infection and the first thing you want to do is get them on antibiotics,” CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida said. “And while that may help, it may also hurt.”

In the past many doctors have pushed the watchful waiting approach — stay away from antibiotics, mainly to avoid resistant germs. But the new study gives a different reason for saying “no” — side effects. It’s the first time researchers have really looked at how common side effects are from the everyday antibiotics.

“They are more common than we thought,” Hnida said.

About 80 percent of children who get an ear infection will just get better on their own — usually within a couple of days. But antibiotics may help children with stubborn or severe infections. But up to one in five children who take medicine will have a problem — anywhere from vomiting and diarrhea to an allergic reaction, like a skin rash.

The antibiotic that worked the best was the simplest — amoxicillin. But even amoxicillin, like the other medicines, can have side effects.

“Keep in mind young children are more prone to side effects than adults when it comes to antibiotics,” Hnida said. “My advice is some kids do need antibiotics — under age 2 — really sick or in a lot of pain. But keep in mind the risk that comes with medicine.”


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