One Hundred Earaches

Author: Anne D. Walling
Date: Nov 15, 2000

(Canada--Canadian Family Physician, May 2000, p. 1081.) Although earache is one of the most common symptoms seen by family physicians throughout the Western world, the accepted optimal treatment strategy for otitis media, the primary cause of earache, varies dramatically from country to country. In many European countries, antibiotics are rarely prescribed for earache, whereas in North America, almost all patients with earache or ear infections receive antibiotics. A Canadian family physician, who changed his practice to follow the guidelines of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (now the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), reports that only two of 100 patients met the criteria for treatment with antibiotics. The remaining 98 patients were treated symptomatically and were asked to return within two days if their condition did not improve. Only four patients returned within two weeks because of earache. Two of the patients had otitis media, one had otitis externa and one had symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia. The physician advocates public education to change the routine use of antibiotics to treat earache in family practice.

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