WEDNESDAY, Jan. 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children's ear
infections cost the U.S. health care system nearly $3 billion a
year, a new study says.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of 81.5 million
children younger than 18 who received care in 2009. Of those, 8.7
million were seen for ear infections. Children with ear infections
averaged two more outpatient visits, 0.2 more emergency visits and
had 1.6 more prescriptions filled than those without ear
Ear infections were associated with an extra $314 per child per
year for outpatient care and an average of $17 in additional costs
for medications. In total, ear infections cost $2.88 billion in
2009, according to the study in the January issue of the journal
"Although certain immunizations that target infection-causing
bacteria may play a role in slightly reducing the overall rate of
ear infections, millions of young kids will still have them," study
co-author Dr. Nina Shapiro, director of pediatric otolaryngology at
Mattel Children's Hospital, University of California, Los Angeles,
said in a university news release.
"The take-home message is that the common ear infection is an
extremely costly entity with significant financial burdens on the
health care system," added Shapiro, also a professor of head and
neck surgery at the UCLA School of Medicine
Ear infection (acute otitis media) is the most common ailment
among young children and the most common reason for antibiotic use
among all children, according to the news release.
"Although the annual incidence of ear infection may be declining
in the U.S., the number of kids affected remains high, and the
public health implications of [ear infections] are substantial,"
Shapiro said. "As our health care system continues to be vigorously
discussed around the nation, efforts to control costs and allocate
resources appropriately are of prime importance."
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about