More Info on Ear Infections
If a person has possible ear infection signs or symptoms, the doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask about the patient's personal and family medical history. In order to help make a diagnosis, the doctor may also recommend additional tests that examine the ear or hearing.
(Click Diagnosing an Ear Infection for more detailed information.)
As parents and doctors can attest, getting rid of an ear infection can be tricky. In most cases, treatment involves the use of antibiotics (drugs that kill bacteria). Depending on the specific symptoms that are present, the doctor may recommend waiting for several days before beginning an antibiotic. This is because research has shown that ear infections may improve by themselves without the need for antibiotics. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) can be used to treat any pain or fever caused by the ear infection.
If a child has multiple ear infections, surgery may be recommended as a treatment option.
(Click Ear Infection Treatment for more information on this topic.)
Ear infections (otitis media), represent the sixth most common diagnosis for ambulatory care visits (22.7 million in 1996) and the third most common diagnosis for emergency department visits (3 million in 1995). About one-third of a pediatrician's time is spent diagnosing and managing ear infections.
Approximately $5 billion is spent annually on direct costs of ear infections, and a greater amount is estimated to be spent indirectly due to lost work, travel, long-term handicap, and delayed language development.