Not All Ear Infections Require Antibiotics

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Not All Ear Infections Require Antibiotics

Not All Ear Infections Require Antibiotics | The Survival Doctorby James Hubbard, MD, MPH

After my post about complications of the flu, a reader chided me on short-changing a couple of complications. One was ear infections. I wrote that if you develop an ear infection and can’t get to a doctor, you can treat it easily with antibiotics. But, the reader asked, what if you don’t have them? Is there anything else you can do?

The truth is, you may not even need the antibiotics.

For years, we’ve known most ear infections will resolve on their own. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics developed a set of guidelines regarding the matter. In it, they reiterate that most ear infections are caused from viruses. For 60 percent of people, symptoms start decreasing within twenty-four hours. By seven days, 70 percent are symptom-free. All without antibiotics.

So, the glaring question becomes how do you determine the 30-40 percent who do benefit from antibiotics? (And for those, there is no good substitute.) Oh, and is there anything else you can do, for instance, for the pain?

First, know it’s hard enough for us doctors to predict who needs antibiotics and who doesn’t. So my suggestion is have your doctor help you make that decision. But if there comes a time you can’t get to a doctor?

>> Next: Signs an ear infection may need antibiotics


Ear infection photo by clappstar on Flickr.

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  • Methanecreator

    I have also heard that blowing tobacco smoke into the ear will also help with earaches.

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Thanks, Methanecreator. I suspect it’s the warmth that helps.

      • Northwest

        It must be a Menthol cigarette. The menthol is what relieves the pain. Then plug the ear with a cottonball. Works great for those late night ear aches when you need quick relief.

  • WE2

    Poke a hole in a garlic gel cap (vitamin section) and squeeze contents into affected ear & plug ear with cotton ball. Works wonders!

    • http://pinterest Rose

      Something in the garlic draws out the infection and at the very least a nasty looking gunk of wax etc. We keep chopped garlic (in a jar from the store) on hand for cooking but our granddaughters get ear infections alot, so we drizzle the oil onto a cottonball and insert in the affected ear. By morning either the cottonball or her pillow has gunk on it and she feels much better. Works like a charm! Thanks for sharing so much info Doc-I’m always learning something new from your site!

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Thanks, WE2

  • millenniumfly

    Good article as usual, Doc. It’s always wise for the average joe like me to have a little knowledge like this. Sounds like you need to make another ebook, perhaps “how to treat common medical issues that aren’t usually problems” or something like that. :)

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Millenniumfly. Good idea. Thanks