Parents’ beliefs and knowledge about the management of acute otitis media: A qualitative study

Malene Hansen, Bond University
Janine Howlett, Bond University
Chris del Mar, Bond University
Tammy Hoffmann, Bond University

Document Type Journal Article

Published Version

Hansen, M., Howlett, J., Del Mar, C., & Hoffman, T. (2015). Parents’ beliefs and knowledge about the management of acute otitis media: a qualitative study. BMC Family Practice, 16(82), 1-7.

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© Copyright, The Authors, 2015

2015 HERDC Submission

NHMRC Grant ID: 1033038;1044904


Background: Acute otitis media is a common reason for antibiotic prescribing, despite strong evidence that antibiotics provide minimal benefit. Studies have demonstrated that patients’ (or parents’) expectations of antibiotics often influence general practitioners’ (GPs) decision to prescribe antibiotics, but few have explored parents’ expectations of the management of infections in children, or which factors influence the development of these expectations. This study aimed to explore parents’ knowledge and beliefs about the management of acute otitis media in children. Methods: Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 parents of children who had recently presented to their GP with acute otitis media. Parents were recruited at childcare centres or playgroups in Brisbane, Australia. Results: Many parents did not have an accurate understanding of what causes acute otitis media. GPs were primarily consulted for the management of symptoms such as pain and fever. Others specifically wanted reassurance or were concerned about hearing loss. Most parents assumed that antibiotics were the best treatment option. Parents’ perceptions about the best treatment were mainly based on their previous experience and the advice of the GP. Pain relief medications, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, were not considered by parents to be sufficient treatment on their own. Conclusion: There is discrepancy between parents’ beliefs and expectations of management of acute otitis media and the evidence-based recommendations. This study provides insights into parents’ expectations of management of acute otitis media, which may help inform clinicians about perceptions and misperceptions that may be valuable to elicit and discuss.


This document has been peer reviewed.