Southwest Daily News - Sulphur, LA
  • Ear, nose and throat problems plague kids

  • By Otolaryngologist Michael Jones, MD, ENT (ear nose and throat) Specialist

    National health statistics reveal that pediatric ear, nose, and throat infections remain among the primary reasons children visit a physician.

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  • By Otolaryngologist Michael Jones, MD, ENT (ear nose and throat) Specialist
    National health statistics reveal that pediatric ear, nose, and throat infections remain among the primary reasons children visit a physician.
    It’s prime time cold and flu season, and children, especially young ones, are very susceptible to germs that make their way to the vulnerable tissue in the ears, nose and throat. This is why it is extremely important for parents to learn about the signs and symptoms of these common conditions in their kids, as well as the treatment options and services recommended.
    Ear, nose and throat ailments can range from a simple cough or sore throat all the way to flu, and even pneumonia. These conditions can be traced to many sources. Bacteria is a leading cause, but allergies, acid reflux and viruses can also be the culprit behind the problem.
    Children who have many recurring infections and have multiple courses of antibiotics are one group who can benefit from assessment by an ear, nose and throat doctor.
    According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology middle-ear infections are by far the number one reason children see a doctor. Middle-ear infection, called acute otitis media, is the most common bacterial illness in children and the one most commonly treated with antibiotics. Middle-ear infections occur more frequently in children than adults because of the Eustachian tube, which connects the ear to the body's airways. The adult Eustachian tube inclines about 45 degrees while the child's Eustachian tube inclines only about 10 degrees. Consequently, the adult gains the benefit of gravity, which acts to increase resistance to fluid entering the middle ear. Young children don’t have this benefit and are much more susceptible to fluid building up in their middle ear when they have the flu, colds, allergies or other conditions that lead to increased fluid being produced by the respiratory system.
    More than five million cases of acute middle-ear infections occur annually in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And more than 10 million antibiotic prescriptions are written each year to manage those infections.
    There is growing concern about drug-resistant bacteria as the result of overuse of antibiotics in early childhood. The most recent guidelines encourage the reduced use of antibiotics to tackle middle-ear infections. Research actually shows that the vast majority of children – nine out of 10 – will get better without antibiotics. It is much more common now for doctors to take a more “watchful waiting” approach while working to address the possible causes of the fluid build-up and providing a mild painkiller for discomfort. This is not to say that antibiotics are not needed to treat and ear infection in some cases, but it’s important for parents to understand that antibiotics are not necessarily the right choice in every case.
    Page 2 of 2 - While most ear infections either heal on their own or with antibiotics, chronic ear infections or constant fluid build-up may require minor surgery to insert tiny ear tubes. Ear tubes can help reduce repeat ear infections or keep fluid from building up behind the eardrum. Most tubes stay in place for about six to 12 months and then usually fall out on their own. As the tubes migrate out of the eardrum, some children may need more than one set of tubes, and possibly adenoid removal, if problems persist.
    In some cases, middle-ear conditions can severely affect a child's hearing, often at an age when the child cannot effectively communicate the problem. This usually happens when fluid fills the normally open chamber of the inner ear, stifling sound waves.
    Warning signs for middle-ear infections include inattention to what is going on around them, watching television at a high volume and pulling or rubbing the ear. Snoring, chronic runny noses or enlarged adenoids also are potential red flags, because they can be symptoms of infections or problems that can lead to recurring ear infections.
    These infections occur at a time that is critical for language development, and if left untreated, chronic middle-ear infections can even cause development delays. That is why it is critical for parents to be aware of the warning signs and see a doctor if they are concerned.
    For more information about ear infections or any ENT concern, call Dr. Jones at 527-2924.

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