Careful monitoring of the child's condition (watchful waiting) along with home remedies may be a viable alternative to antibiotic treatment for many children with a first episode of acute otitis media. However, in some situations parents should contact their medical professional immediately:
Before antibiotics, parents used home remedies to treat the pain of ear infections. Now, with current concern over antibiotic overuse, many of these remedies are again popular.
Herbal remedies are not standardized or regulated, and their quality and safety are largely unknown. Parents should never give their child herbal remedies, including oral remedies, without approval from a doctor.
Valsalva's Maneuver. A simple technique called the Valsalva's maneuver is useful in opening the Eustachian tubes and providing occasional relief from the chronic stuffy feeling accompanying otitis media with effusion. It may also be useful for unplugging ears during air travel descent as well. It works as follows:
Do not use this technique if an infection is present.
A number of pain relievers are available to help relieve symptoms.
Note: Aspirin and aspirin-containing products are not recommended for children or adolescents. Reye syndrome, a very serious condition, is associated with aspirin use in children who have chickenpox or flu.
Many non-prescription products are available that combine antihistamines, decongestants, and other ingredients, and some are advertised as cold remedies for children. Researchers have found little or no benefits for acute otitis media or for otitis media with effusion using decongestants (either oral or nasal sprays or drops), antihistamines, or combination product. Their use is not recommended for AOM or OME.
Recent research has questioned the general safety of cough and cold products for children. They are currently banned for use in children under age 4 years. The American College of Chest Physicians recommends against the use of nonprescription cough and cold medicines in children age 14 years and younger.
Swimming can pose specific risks for children with current ear infections or previous surgery. Water pollutants or chemicals may exacerbate the infection, and underwater swimming causes pressure changes that can cause pain. The following precautions should be taken:
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