An ear infection (acute otitis media) is most often a bacterial or viral infection that affects the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear. Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections. Ear infections frequently are painful because of inflammation and buildup of fluids in the middle ear. Because ear infections often clear up on their own, treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem. Ear infection in infants and severe cases in general often require antibiotic medications. Long-term problems related to ear infections — persistent fluids in the middle ear, persistent infections or frequent infections — can cause hearing problems and other serious complications. Most ear infections resolve without treatment with antibiotics. What's best for child depends on many factors, including child's age and the severity of symptoms.
Doctor may recommend antibiotic treatment for an ear infection in the following situations: Children 6 months and older with moderate to severe ear pain in one or both ears for at least 48 hours or a temperature of 102.2 F (39 C) or higher Children 6 to 23 months with mild inner ear pain in one or both ears for less than 48 hours and a temperature less than 102.2 F (39 C) Children 24 months and older with mild inner ear pain in one or both ears for less than 48 hours and a temperature less than 102.2 F (39 C) Even after symptoms have improved, be sure to use the entire antibiotic as directed. Failing to do so can result in recurring infection and resistance of bacteria to antibiotic medications. Talk to doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you accidentally skip a dose.