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Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

Treatment

The treatment of a middle ear infection depends on how bad the symptoms are and what's causing the infection. Many infections will go away on their own and the only treatment necessary is medication for pain. Up to 80% of ear infections may go away without antibiotics. Antibiotics are prescribed for any child younger than 6 months and for any person with severe symptoms. Sometimes a doctor will write a prescription for antibiotics but will ask the patient or family to wait 48 to 72 hours before filling it, to see if symptms improve.

In cases of particularly severe infections or those that do not respond to treatment, a tube may need to be inserted through the eardrum. This is done by a specialist in illnesses of the ears, nose and throat (an otolaryngologist), usually under anesthesia. If enlarged adenoids or tonsils cause recurrent or persistent infections, the specialist may recommend surgery to remove them.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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