The latest advice on treating ear infections?
"Giving antibiotics is clearly beneficial."
That conclusion comes from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His agency funded new research that shows antibiotics can help young children feel better and recover faster when they're diagnosed with acute otitis media, otherwise known as a middle ear infection
"It really was a very good study in that the criteria for the diagnosis and the following of the symptoms were very strict," said Dr. Fauci.
This finding is in contrast to other research, which indicated most kids' ear infections would clear up on their own. Dr. Fauci doesn't see a contradiction, however.
"The diagnostic criteria used in those children may not have been as precise as the diagnostic criteria that's used here," he said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged a "watchful waiting" approach rather than immediate antibiotic treatment because overuse of antibiotics leads to bacterial resistance.
"The study was aimed at trying to develop more criteria for the appropriate use of antibiotics," said Dr. Fauci.
Pediatricians, like Dr. Kimberly Giuliano, find the new study reassuring.
"It does help us to know that we are doing the right thing for the child if we are treating a known ear infection with an antibiotic."
The research appears to be the best prescription moms and dads have to clear up their confusion.
New guidelines are expected to be issued sometime this year and will include more specifics about which children will benefit most from antibiotics.