Let’s Talk About Kids

Does your child struggle with constant ear infections? Do you frequent the doctor's office and have tried numerous antibiotics only to still experience sleepless nights and face concerns about permanent damage to your child's hearing? Then you join the countless number of parents and caregivers who suffer the same circumstances. Next to the common cold, ear infections in children rank high on the list of childhood illnesses. And while it may be common, that doesn't mean it's any less frustrating, concerning or problematic.

From first-time caregivers and parents to those who have experience with ear infections in children, the bottom line is that each infection and treatment can vary. It's important to first understand the basics of the infection to truly recognize the symptoms. "Ear infections are caused when the Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat gets swollen or blocked by congestion or mucus," says Daniel Todd, MC, FACS of Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat. "The fluid then builds up in the middle ear making it prone to infection from bacteria and viruses. While most children eventually grow out of chronic ear infections as their ears develop with age, it's still vital to take immediate action.

Common treatments range from simply "waiting it out", prescription antibiotics and ear tubes. "Ear tubes are one of the most effective ways to treat chronic ear infections," says Dr. Todd. "It consists of surgically inserting a tube into the middle ear to stabilize pressure." And while not all children are candidates for ear tubes, for those who experience fluid build-up in both ears for more than three months and struggle with hearing, it can be life changing. "Having chronic fluid build-up can affect motor skills and even a child's balance," says Dr. Todd. By undergoing this simple procedure, ear tubes alleviate build-up by allowing air to pass into the child's middle ear. This allows for proper ventilation and pressure release. "Often, children respond very well to this procedure and can resume normal activities in a short period of time," says Dr. Todd. There's also very little maintenance or follow-up appointments. "Most children grow out of their tubes," says Dr. Todd. "But for some, the tubes remain in the ear and can cause damage to the ear drum." He advises to always tell your physician if your child has ear tubes to ensure they are monitored and removed if necessary.

Unfortunately, ear infections are becoming increasing prevalent in children under five years of age. Thankfully there are several procedures available. "Because when your child is struggling and in pain, it's very concerning and stressful. Understanding the symptoms and seeking out treatments for chronic ear infections is vital for optimal ear health and overall improved quality of life."

By Jennifer Dumke - Sioux Falls Woman Magazine