Last March, while on vacation in Florida, my 11-month-old came down with a fever. We took him to a local pediatrician who quickly diagnosed him with a middle ear infection and prescribed him a 10-day course of antibiotics. Two days later, back home in New York, our pediatrician said our son probably never had an ear infection, and that regardless, he should stop taking the drugs.
At the time, I was exceptionally annoyed. What irked me wasn't just the misdiagnosis; it was that he had recommended unnecessary drugs that may have upset my baby's stomach and potentially, research suggests, increased his risk for asthma and irritable bowel disease. But it turns out Dr. Florida's actions were less the exception than the rule: Many U.S. pediatricians overdiagnose and overtreat ear infections, in part because of how difficult it is to accurately perform ear exams and in part because doctors feel you breathing down their stethoscope-adorned necks for the meds.