National survey of pediatricians' opinions about and practices for acute otitis media and xylitol use

J Am Acad Audiol. 2010 May;21(5):329-46. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.21.5.5.


Background: Acute otitis media (AOM) is the main reason for physician visits and antibiotic prescriptions in children. Pediatricians (Peds) are gatekeepers for services and sources of information for families. The 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics/American Academy of Family Physicians (AAP/AAFP) Clinical Practice Guideline: Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media recommended preventative and management measures for Peds' practice. Treatments for AOM (antimicrobial therapy and surgery) sometimes have questionable effectiveness, risks, and high costs. Thus, Peds should consider using prophylactics for AOM that are easy to administer, cost-effective, and have minimal side effects. Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, is widely used to prevent AOM and for other health conditions in Europe, and as a dental caries prophylaxis in the United States. It would be helpful to know Peds' attitudes and practices to identify barriers to xylitol's use as a prophylaxis for AOM in the United States.

Purpose: To conduct a national survey of Peds in the United States to evaluate how closely they adhered to the AAP/AAFP guideline, and their knowledge and opinions about xylitol use.

Research design: A randomized, national postal survey.

Method: A 48-item questionnaire developed for this study was mailed to a random sample of 506 Peds within the United States during spring 2009. It assessed Peds' demographics, adherence to the guideline, and knowledge and opinions about and use of xylitol as a prophylaxis for AOM in children.

Results: The questionnaire response rate was 22% (98 useable/506 mailed - 63 returned undeliverable). Participants were about equal for gender, and almost all were in private practice for over 10 yr. Most had pediatric patients with at least one bout of AOM annually. The majority adhered to the guideline (e.g., almost all routinely assessed and managed patients' pain for AOM and encouraged prevention by recommending that families reduce risk factors). Most used and were comfortable with otoscopy for diagnosing AOM, but not tympanometry. Almost all believed that conductive hearing loss could hinder speech-language and academic development, and AOM could reduce quality of life of children. They also believed that those under 6 mo of age with AOM should receive antibacterial therapy beginning with amoxicillin but did not use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Only about half knew about medical uses for xylitol, but of those, most were aware of its use in chewing gum to prevent AOM but had not used it with patients. They were not sure of xylitol's effectiveness or appropriate dosages but cited stomach cramping and diarrhea as possible side effects. Most would use xylitol if evidence supported it and wanted information about it via reprints or electronically. Few agreed that audiologists are important in diagnosing/managing AOM.

Conclusions: Most of these Peds adhered to the AAP/AAFP guideline. They were not using CAMs like xylitol for preventing AOM in children. Future research should focus on prevention and the use of xylitol as a possible prophylaxis regimen for AOM in patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Child
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Otitis Media / drug therapy
  • Otitis Media / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sweetening Agents / therapeutic use
  • United States
  • Xylitol / therapeutic use*


  • Sweetening Agents
  • Xylitol