icon-arrow-down icon icon-arrow-fill-down icon icon-arrow-next icon icon-arrow-prev icon icon-tag-close icon
My child has been on seven antibiotics and still has an ear infection.
Q: I really need advice from an expert! My baby is almost 23 months old. Last April, he constantly had a cold, cough, runny nose and fever. I took him into an ER at the end of April, where he was diagnosed with an ear infection and put on an antibiotic. After two weeks of antibiotics, he developed a fever and a blister on his tongue. He went to the ER again and was diagnosed with ear and throat infections, and went on a stronger antibiotic. After he finished the antibiotics, he went into the ER again because of a high fever and again, my son was diagnosed with an ear infection and given another antibiotic. I finally got Medicaid and found a doctor for him at the end of June. The doctor gave him antibiotics because he still had an ear infection. We went to South America for one month and when we returned home, we had a follow-up appointment. He still had an ear infection, for which another antibiotic was prescoted

Can you tell me, what should I do? My child has already been on seven antibiotics and still has an ear infection. I held the last prescription because I don't think it works. I asked for a referral to a specialist but never received it, and feel so frustrated. I really appreciate you taking time to read my problem. God bless you.
Joanna Miami
A: Joanna, your situation is very frustrating. Babies under age 2 commonly experience about a dozen illnesses a year, and colds and ear infections are the most common illnesses among children this age. Ear infections are often caused by viruses, and many children get better on their own without antibiotics. But some ear infections are caused by bacteria and need to be treated with antibiotics, usually for one-two weeks, to get better. Sometimes the bacteria in the ear infection are resistant to (not cured by) the antibiotics, so the child has to take another course of a different antibiotic. And some children have what’s known as “chronic otitis media” or persistent ear infection and have to take antibiotics continually, over the course of months or years, to prevent the ear infections from coming back.

You need to find a doctor who will do a complete evaluation of your baby’s health and determine what’s causing his illnesses and the best treatment. You’ve been taking your baby to the Emergency Room, where it’s very busy and you see a different doctor each time. Instead of going back to the ER, it’s better to use your Medicaid and make an appointment with a pediatrician in a medical office or clinic. You can contact the local university medical centre, local children's hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics (1-800-433-9016), or public health department to find a pediatrician who accepts Medicaid. Make sure you tell the pediatrician the whole story of your child’s health and illnesses (if possible, write it down before your visit, just as you did in your question to me), the immunizations he’s received, other health conditions in family members, the countries to which your child has traveled, and which antibiotics seemed to work and which didn’t. Ask the pediatrician to do a complete health assessment and exam on your child—not just his ears and throat but also his chest, abdomen, etc. Ask if your son might also need a culture, blood test, skin test, or chest x-ray to check for other possible causes of his symptoms. If the pediatrician prescotes an antibiotic for your child, be sure to give him the medicine for the whole time, as prescoted. Even if he starts feeling better after a couple of days, don’t stop the medicine because the infection isn’t all gone yet and it can come back again. Continue to take your son to follow-up appointments with the same pediatrician. If your son continues to have ear infections and is not getting better, ask the pediatrician whether he might need to be evaluated by a doctor specialized in ear, nose, and throat (ENT). You have to be very persistent to get the best possible medical care for your child.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician