Ear Infection Rates Decline in Children

Acute otitis media rates decline in children and appears to coincide with use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Having an ear infection can be a common and uncomfortable experience for a child, but according to new research, fewer children may be experiencing them.

A recent study found a decline in the number of ear infection-related hospital visits, particularly in children under the age of 2.

However, the researchers did find an increase in some ear infection-related complications.

"Seek medical attention if your child has an ear infection."

This study was led by Tasnee Chonmaitree, MD, in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. The research team examined trends in the rate of acute otitis media (ear infection) during a period when two vaccines for ear infections were being introduced.

Data was analyzed from a US-based, nationwide insurance claims database that included 7.82 million children between 2001-2011.

The 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) was developed in 2000 to protect against ear infections, and the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-13) was developed in 2010 after the PCV-7 vaccine was becoming ineffective.

There were a total of 6.21 million hospital visits for ear infections during the study period. The researchers found a decrease in ear infection hospital visits from 2004 to 2011, with a significant drop in children younger than 2 years that coincided with the use of PCV-13 in 2010.

The researchers found that more boys were diagnosed with an ear infection than girls. Children under the age of two had more ear infection visits compared to children between 2 to 6 years of age.

The researchers also looked at complications caused by ear infections including: tympanic membrane perforation (hole in the eardrum), otorrhea (fluid leaks from the ear), and acute mastoiditis (bacterial infection that occurs in a bone behind the ear). They found that rates of tympanic membrane perforation and otorrhea steadily increased during the study period, while mastoiditis rates significantly decreased.

The study authors noted that 80 percent of children will experience at least one ear infection by their third birthday. They concluded that while the decline in ear infection hospital visits seems to be connected to the use of PCV-13, more studies are needed to confirm this relationship.

This study was published on November 25 in JAMA Pediatrics.

This study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and an award from the Institute for Translational Sciences at The University of Texas Medical Branch.

The study authors reported no competing interests.

Review Date: 
November 30, 2013
Last Updated:
December 2, 2013