Primary care management of otitis media among Australian children

Med J Aust. 2009 Nov 2;191(S9):S55-9.


Acute otitis media (AOM) is diagnosed on the basis of acute onset of pain and fever; a red, bulging tympanic membrane; and middle ear effusion. AOM is managed with analgesia (paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Antibiotic therapy is minimally effective for most patients; it is most effective for children < 2 years with bilateral otitis media and for children with discharging ears. National guidelines recommend antibiotic therapy for Indigenous children with AOM. Evidence for corticosteroids, topical analgesia and xylitol are scant. Otitis media with effusion (OME) is diagnosed as the presence of middle ear effusion (type B tympanogram or immobile tympanic membrane on pneumatic otoscopy) without AOM criteria. Well children with OME with no speech and language delays can be observed for the first 3 months; perform audiological evaluation and refer to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if they have bilateral hearing impairment > 30 dB or persistent effusion. Children with effusions persisting longer than 3 months can benefit from a 2-4-week course of amoxycillin. Chronic suppurative otitis media is a chronic discharge through a tympanic membrane perforation. It is managed with regular ear cleaning (dry mopping or povidone-iodine [Betadine] washouts) until discharge resolves; topical ear drops (eg, ciprofloxacin); audiological evaluation; and ENT review.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Australia
  • Child, Preschool
  • Hearing Loss / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Ear Ventilation
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / drug therapy*
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / physiopathology
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / surgery
  • Otitis Media, Suppurative / drug therapy*
  • Otitis Media, Suppurative / physiopathology
  • Otitis Media, Suppurative / surgery
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Referral and Consultation


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents