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Identifying and treating ear infections in babies is important because they can lead to other problems, according to Dr. Andrew Hotaling, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago.
"Antibiotics should only be prescribed if the ear infection cannot be cleared without them," Hotaling said. "Incorrectly administering antibiotics can cause further harm."
A non-drug option is to apply heat to the outer ear, using a warm (not hot) wash cloth compress or brief use of a warm (not hot) heating pad or water bottle, he said.
"If your baby gets three ear infections in six months or four in one year, it may be time to consider ear tubes," Hotaling said.
The tubes, which have to be implanted during a surgical procedure, provide ventilation and drainage that helps prevent fluid buildup in the ears. Although anesthesia is required, the whole procedure takes about 15 minutes, according to Hotaling.
The tubes usually stay in place for six months to a year, and generally fall out on their own, he said.
-- Robert Preidt
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