Ear infections: watch and wait before turning to antibiotics

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The cold winter months are a prime time for ear infections to strike. It's one of the most common and painful infections among children in the winter. Every child at some point will be at their pediatricians office for an ear infection. However, doctors are urging parents to watch and wait before rushing to the doctor.

It's tough to see your little ones in pain but doctors say antibiotics aren't always the cure for ear infections. 

"Antibiotics can help an ear infection get better faster, but so many ear infections- up to 80-85% can get better on their own," said Dr. Randy Thornton with Jacksonville Pediatrics. "Particularly in the older children. Children above 2-years-old- many times it's best to wait and see if the infection will get better"

He says there's no denying it, ear infections spike in the winter.

"Ear infections are usually a result of catching a cold. You usually don't catch an ear infection, you catch a cold and the cold works its way up the Eustachian tubes- that area that connects the back of the nose and throat to the middle ear space," said Dr. Thornton.

Pediatricians say watchful waiting should be the first step taken when your child has an ear infection. Wait 48 hours before rushing to the doctor. Watch for symptoms that include fever, tugging at the ears, difficulty sleeping, and of course, pain in the ear. 

The goal is to not always turn to an antibiotic for every ear infection. It also doesn't mean just sitting back and doing nothing. Help ease the pain with over the counter medicine like Tylenol, ibuprofen, plenty of fluids and other comfort measures.


The watch and wait method should not be applied to children under 2-year-old. If you child is vomiting, has a high fever or swelling, they need to go straight to the doctor.