Will a pediatric ENT consultation resolve my child's ear infection?
I have taken my son to the doctor's three times in about six months due to ear infections. How can I reduce the numbers of infections he gets?
Thank you for your question. Acute otitis media, more commonly referred to as "ear infection," is among the most common reasons for urgent visits to the pediatrician. It can occur as a result of a viral infection which causes the inner ear to swell, blocking off the normal drainage canals of the inner ear and causing pain and swelling. This blocked path can also become infected with bacteria, which is the reason why acute otitis media is very often treated with antibiotics such as amoxicillin. Children with recurrent episodes of acute otitis media are very often referred to otolaryngologists (also known as ear-nose-throat surgeons or ENTs) for consideration for tympanostomy tube placement. The indications for referral may be individualized depending on circumstances, but in general any child with 3 or more infections in the prior 6 months of 4 or more infections in the prior 12 months should be considered for referral. In tympanostomy tube placement, tiny tubes are surgically placed in the ear drum which allow the middle ear fluid to drain, preventing the buildup of fluid and bacteria that cause acute otitis media. Although no single treatment can definitively prevent ear infections, children often experience a marked decrease in the number of ear infections after tympanostomy tube placement. Over time, the tubes simply fall out on their own, and do not typically need to be replaced, as older children do not characteristically get ear infections. Given the number of ear infections your son has had, I suggest you talk to your pediatrician about a referral to an ENT surgeon for consideration for tympanostomy tube placement.