Diet & Nutrition

No more antibiotics for kids with ear infections

Children with ear infections or fevers should not be given antibiotics or pain relief, a new government campaign has recommended.

Parents have been advised to stop giving children Panadol or Nurofen for fevers and doctors have been told not to prescribe antibiotics for ear infections in a new crackdown on “unnecessary medical treatments”.

The Choosing Wisely Australia campaign has released 61 recommendations aimed at reducing bacterial resistance and rein in spiralling health costs.

Childhood ear infections are in the crosshairs of the campaign, with Dr Frank R Jones from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners saying antibiotics are not necessary in children aged two to 12.

“Regardless of whether one or both eardrums are red or bulging, antibiotics do not reduce pain at 24 hours,” he says. “The small benefits of antibiotic use must be weighed up against the risk and potential side-effects such as rash, diarrhoea, or vomiting.

“We are reminding doctors and parents that it is also safe to not use antibiotics in routine situations where the evidence suggests it won't help the child.”

Instead, parents should use pain paracetamol or ibuprofen to control the pain and antibiotics should only be given if the child has a high fever, is vomiting or lethargic.

But when it comes to other fevers, the campaign urges parents to stop using pain relievers because it inhibits the body’s ability to fight the illness. No matter how hot the child is, pain relief should only be administered if the child is uncomfortable and distressed.

Other “unnecessary” treatments that are no longer advised include chest x-rays for uncomplicated bronchitis, routine colonoscopies, antibiotics to treat upper respiratory tract infections, CT scans to check for appendicitis, repeated blood tests for people with fatigue and x-rays for lower back pain.

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