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Health Care
Diseases and Indications
Ear Infections

Childhood ear infections have risen 300 percent over the last 20 years and acute middle ear infections (otitis media) are the most frequent reason for children under the age of six to see a physician. In 1999, in the USA alone there were more than 30 million cases of acute middle ear infections.

What are ear infections?
Acute otitis media is the term used to describe an infection involving the middle ear that starts rather suddenly. Typical symptoms are pain, fever, irritability and hearing loss. This type of infection is usually preceded by a cold. Inflammation occurs around the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and bacteria can enter the middle ear.

Treatment of acute ear infections
Most bacterial ear infections require antibiotic treatment because, if left untreated, the bacterial disease may cause deafness and lead to more serious infections, such as meningitis. Treatment involves an antibiotic (frequently amoxicillin) given by mouth for seven to ten days. If the pain and fever are still present after 72 hours, the medication is usually changed.

However, children do not always complete their full course of antibiotic therapy. Two common reasons for this are a bad reaction to the medication and stopping therapy when the child feels better. When the full course of antibiotics is not absorbed the bacteria flourish again. An incomplete course of antibiotics allows the bacteria to be exposed to low levels of antibiotics that do not kill them, but could encourage the development of resistant organisms. This can ultimately lead to more infections, more visits to the doctor's office, and an increase in antibiotic resistance.

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