The concept and practice of a wait-and-see approach to acute otitis media

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2008 Feb;20(1):72-8. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e3282f2fa62.


Purpose of review: We review the contemporary management of acute otitis media, including symptomatic care, the rationale and literature for utilizing the wait-and-see approach, and the indications for immediate therapy with antibiotics.

Recent findings: Current guidelines recommend selective use of observation in children diagnosed with acute otitis media. Recent evidence suggests that a wait-and-see approach will reduce the use of antibiotics and decrease adverse events associated with their use. Earlier studies found that antimicrobials reduce pain and discomfort in the acute phase of illness compared with placebo. A recently published trial, however, suggests that when analgesics are utilized there may be minimal or no difference in otalgia whether antibiotics are prescribed or withheld.

Summary: Treatment of acute otitis media is the most frequent indication for prescribing antibiotics in the pediatric population. Evidence suggests there is marginal benefit from antibiotics for most children diagnosed with AOM. Based on current data, we propose an algorithm for the management of children with AOM that includes a wait-and-see approach with specific indications for immediate treatment with antibiotics. A wait-and-see approach to acute otitis media that empowers families by using a shared decision-making model will reduce the use of antibiotics and will decrease resistance to antimicrobials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Otitis Media / complications
  • Otitis Media / diagnosis
  • Otitis Media / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents