Child earaches cost U.S. healthcare almost $3 billion a year

Jan. 12, 2014 at 12:55 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Ear infections of U.S. children cost $314 per child annually for outpatient healthcare and $17 in additional costs for medications, researchers say.

Study co-author Dr. Nina Shapiro, director of pediatric otolaryngology at Mattel Children's Hospital University of California, Los Angeles, and a professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said the annual cost for U.S. child ear infections was $2.88 billion.

Acute otitis media, or ear infection, is the most common ailment among kids of preschool age and younger primarily because the children have immature middle-ear drainage systems, higher exposure to respiratory illnesses and undeveloped immune systems.

Ear ache is also the most common reason for antibiotic use among all children. The costs associated with acute otitis media are under more scrutiny than ever by healthcare and government administrators given today's political and economic climate, strained healthcare resources and cost-containment efforts.

For the study, the researchers examined records of pediatric patients age 18 and younger culled from the 2009 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a national survey conducted by the Agency for Health Research and Quality.

Of the 81.5 million children analyzed, 8.7 million had received care for ear infections. The rates of visits to the doctor's office, refills of prescription medications and healthcare costs associated with doctor visits were then compared between those with diagnosed ear infections and those without. The rates were adjusted for age, sex, region, race, ethnicity, insurance status and co-morbidities.

The research was published in the current edition of the journal The Laryngoscope.

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