Ear infections are a very common childhood ailment that can be of great concern to parents. It’s not the fact that ear infections are particularly difficult to deal with, but rather they cause a significant amount of discomfort to kids, and that in and of itself can lead to a parent being distraught as they watch their little one suffer.
However, the main concern for parents who have a child with ear infections is that smaller children suffering from infections may be on antibiotic regimens that are too long and too powerful.
The concern over side effects and the development of antibiotic resistance has led parents to wonder if a shorter treatment is better. A recent study carried out by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has determined that, in fact, longer is better when it comes to treating ear infections.
Shorter Isn’t Better After All
The basis of the study was to determine if a shorter course of treatment using the most effective and commonly prescribed antibiotic for ear infections in younger children, was as effective in the hopes of alleviating side effects such as diarrhea, diaper rash, and other conditions.
In fact, the study, which followed 529 children who had been randomly placed into two groups, found that the ones who received a five day course of regular treatment followed by a five day placebo did not fare evenly in terms of treatment effectiveness as those who received a full 10 day traditional run of the antibiotics.
Neither the physicians or the patient and parents knew which group each participant had been assigned to in order to keep the data pure. Alejandro Hoberman, M.D, Division chief of General Academic Pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine stated:
“Given significant concerns regarding overuse of antibiotics & increased antibiotic resistance, we undertook this study to ascertain if reducing the duration of standard antibiotic treatment would be as effective while reducing side effects”.
The study found that this was not the case as the risk of treatment failure for those in the shorter test group was more than double than for those in the full regiment group. The focus of this study was limited to children from 9 to 23 months of age, a period when antibiotic effectiveness and the propensity of side effects to occur are both at their height.
Reduction in Treatment Time Can do More harm than Good
With the increase of treatment failure risk, there was also a noticeable lack of decrease in the appearance of side effects such as diarrhea, diaper rash, and other conditions. These side effects were still reported in both groups at nearly the same rate.
It should be noted that, as with the results of the primary study, the results of the side effects research cannot be applied to older children due to the limited nature of the trial group.
One thing is for certain, the results clearly indicate that there is a risk of doing more harm than good with the reduced treatment plan.
“The truth is that we like to use antibiotics as little as possible, but they are also the most effective for treatment of ear infections. But the longer you take them the greater the risk of side effects.” Pediatrician Jeffery Ubinger of premier medical associates in Penn Hills said.
Side Effects are Still a Concern but Can be Managed Case by Case
The side effects that exist are able to be managed on a case by case basis and can also be reduced by careful monitoring by the physician treating the infection. Side effects taken aside, the ten-day course of treatment that has traditionally been used is still the best choice for complete and effective treatment.
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