Here’s an example of a joke that would crack up most doctors: a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the US confirms that there’s a major difference in how to treat kids with ear infections. If you treat them with antibiotics, they improve in a week, but if you don’t give them antibiotics and just let nature takes its course, they take 7 days to get better. (Well, no one ever said doctors had good senses of humor, did they?)

But as you should realize, this report is no joke. What it does, you see, is compare the routine use of antibiotics for ear infections in kids over the age of 2 (a practice that was the norm in North America until recently, and still is in many clinics) with what they do in parts of Europe (the Netherlands particularly) where the initial response to most such infections is to use only TLC with maybe some fever or pain medication thrown in.

The report concludes that kids who don’t get antibiotics routinely do just as well in every measure – time to heal, time off school, complications, hearing loss, recurrent or chronic ear infections – as do kids who get antibiotics, although the former may be better off in one important way in that they don’t run a risk of complications from antibiotics.
Antibiotics as a treatment to ear infecitons
In addition, countries where antibiotic use is limited have fewer problems with antibiotic-resistant infections than we do, and that’s definitely no joke, especially since kids are not unique because adults too are often treated with antibiotics when they don’t need them. For example, the great majority of cases of bronchitis are due to viruses, and current antibiotics don’t work for viruses, yet these drugs are still very often dispensed for this diagnosis. In fact, a few years ago, an editorial in the journal Lancet asked plaintively, “What is it going to take to get doctors to stop prescribing antibiotics for bronchitis?”

It’s the same story for flu, colds, and many cases of sinusitis. Antibiotics don’t work on these infections, so the next time you get one of these diagnoses from your MD along with a prescription to accompany it, ask if you really need to purchase those medications, or if a bit more tincture of time is not likely to be just as helpful.

By the way, to diagnose an ear infection, a doctor looks into your ear for an inflamed, bulging eardrum, although if she is able to see out the other side, you might have a much bigger problem than a simple infection to deal with. That’s another joke that cracks up doctors.

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