What is the most common health problem for little children? That’s right – ear infections. By the age of three, nearly all children will have experienced an ear infection at least once. In fact, ear infections cost Americans billions of dollars each year.

Money spent on treatment however is money well spent – an ear infection that is left alone in an infant can result in a range of serious hearing problems, even deafness. It can even lead to the extremely dangerous condition known as meningitis if the infection spreads to the brain or the bones.

A study carried out in 2010 compared children of different races and the treatment they received for ear infections, and a great discrepancy was found in the care received by children whose families had access to better medical facilities and could afford to make use of them – it was shown that Caucasian children were less likely to end up in ER as a result of an ear infection. The study was conducted over the course of 10 years and included a broad range of participants.

What were some of the results of this extensive study? It was revealed that millions of children have recurring ear infections – over four-and-a-half million kids were suffering from at least three ear infections per year. Yet only about one quarter of children were able to see a specialist rather than only going to the emergency room or seeing a general practitioner. There were even those who could not afford any medical care, and some who could see a doctor but could not afford to fill the prescription (fortunately less than 10%, but still far too many).

Parents who have to bring their children to ER because they can’t afford a doctor place a greater burden on the health care system as a whole, because emergency services cost more money, and those seeking such services for ear infections are usually those who can’t afford to pay. Research continues into the disparity in care received by non-Caucasian children, a large number of whom do not have health insurance.