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Why won't pediatrician prescribe an antibiotic for my baby's ear infection?

Iris Rodriguez-Johnson, MD
Pediatrics

Some ear infections are due to viruses and do not require antibiotics. Others are just fluid that the pediatrician sees and will resolve on their own. Sometimes what might appear to be an ear infection is just redness from the baby crying and will resolve when the baby stops crying.

Louise E. Sivak, MD
Pediatrics

The majority of ear infections (otitis media) in infants and children are caused by viral infections that do not respond to antibiotics. Since middle ear fluid is no longer aspirated and cultured, pediatricians have only clues as to whether your child's infection is caused by a bacterium or a virus. These include duration of illness, height of fever, appearance of the child and specifically examination of the ears, nose, throat, and lungs. Inappropriate overprescription of antibiotics has led in the community to the emergence of resistant bacteria. Giving your child an antibiotic for a viral illness will not help the child get well faster and may even promote the development of a resistant bacterial super-infection (infection on top of the initial one).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.