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STUDY: Stop with the antibiotics if not needed
JOURNAL: Pediatrics (2003;111:E574–E579)
ABSTRACT: An herbal eardrop formula relieves the pain of acute otitis media in children better than other common treatments.
COMMENTARY: Acute otitis media (AOM, inflammation of the middle ear) is one of the most common illnesses of early childhood, affecting 93% of all children in the United States at least once by age seven.
The hallmark of AOM is ear pain, and redness and swelling of the ear drum can be seen on examination. Fever, runny nose, sore throat, and other symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection sometimes accompany AOM. Studies have shown that bacterial infection is rarely the cause of AOM.
Viral infection and allergy are believed to be more common causes. Antibiotics have been found to be ineffective in most cases, and current guidelines recommend topical anesthetics as the first treatment for AOM. Nevertheless, AOM remains the most common reason for prescription of antibiotics in children in the United States, a practice that contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and poses a major threat to worldwide health.
A total of 171 children with AOM participated in the current study. The children were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: group A received herbal eardrops alone; group B received herbal eardrops plus an oral antibiotic (amoxicillin); group C received anesthetic eardrops alone; and group D received anesthetic eardrops plus oral amoxicillin.
Eardrops were given three times per day, five drops each time, for three days. Parents and children used a rating scale to report ear pain levels 30 minutes after each use of the eardrops. The average level of ear pain dropped 95.9% in children receiving herbal eardrops alone, but only 90.9% in children receiving herbal eardrops plus amoxicillin.
The herbal eardrops used in the current study contained garlic, mullein, calendula or marigold, St. John’s wort, lavender, and vitamin E in a base of olive oil.
This formula has herbs that have demonstrated antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects in test tubes. Furthermore, some of these herbs have been shown to stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
The results of this study show that antibiotics do not contribute to the beneficial effects of eardrops in the treatment of AOM, and that these herbal eardrops are more effective than anesthetic eardrops at relieving the pain of AOM. Therefore, herbal eardrops represent a reasonable and safe therapy for providing pain relief in children with AOM.