By Paul M. Dake, M.D.

Q: My children have had ear infections since they were less than a year old. Whenever we saw their doctor some years ago for this problem, I was given a prescription for a decongestant. Since we moved and they have a new doctor, decongestants have not been part of the treatment for their infections. Why the change?

A: Pediatric ear infections are always a result of abnormal fluid collection (mucus) inside the middle ear chamber. This mucus usually drains out of the chamber into the back of the throat, with yawning, chewing, or blowing one’s nose; we don’t feel it because it’s only a fraction of a drop in an area that’s moist all the time anyway. In the same way that decongestants tend to dry up nasal drainage, they also cause considerable thickening of any mucus trapped in the ear chamber, making it more difficult to clear it from the chamber. This has been shown to prolong the infection and the child’s pain, hence decongestants are no longer recommended for ear infections in children.

To learn more about this and many other health topics, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians’ website, where you can click on the ‘Search’ box in the upper right corner of the website to enter your topic of interest or browse the alphabetically listed topics. I want to thank Carol S. for suggesting this topic; if you have any particular topic you would like to hear more about, please message me at

By Paul M. Dake, M.D.

Dr. Paul Dake is a Newberry native who recently retired from a long career in family medicine. He lives in Pinconning, Michigan.

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