In a double-blind study 171 children with acute otitis media (239 affected ears) were treated by four different methods: neither antibiotics nor myringotomy; myringotomy only; antibiotics only; or both antibiotics and myringotomy. All received symptomatic treatment. There were no significant differences in clinical course (pain, temperature, duration of discharge, otoscopic appearances, audiography, recurrence rate) between the four groups. In the groups treated without antibiotics, the ears discharge for slightly longer and the eardrums took a little longer to heal; these differences were not significant. No complications were seen. Symptomatic therapy with nosedrops and analgesics seems a reasonable initial approach to acute otitis media in children. Myringotomy and antibiotics can be reserved for cases in which the course of otitis is irregular, there are complications such as mastoiditis, or ear discharge continues beyond 14 days.