How to Make Sure Your Child's Ear Tubes Do Their Job

Posted on: 8 May 2017

If your young child has been suffering from repeated ear infections, their paediatrician may have recommended ear tube surgery. Ear tubes are hollow plastic or metal cylinders that are small enough to fit into your child's eardrum. They help reduce recurring infections by allowing air flow in and out of your child's middle ear, reducing the fluid buildup that leads to infections.

Ear tubes are a great way of keeping your child's ears healthy while their anatomy develops. However, to ensure the ear tubes continue to do their job long enough for your child to outgrow any ear problems, you'll need to make sure you take care of them. Here are 3 tips for keeping your child's ear tubes in good working order after surgery.

Don't Neglect Antibiotics

Many paediatric ENT surgeons will give your child a prescription for oral antibiotics or ear drops after the procedure. If you want the ear tubes to have the highest chance of success, it's important that you follow through with the entire course of antibiotics.

Some parents believe the antibiotics aren't necessary if their child isn't showing signs of a typical ear infection, but this is not the case. Infection of the surgery site itself is a risk with any invasive procedure; the antibiotics will be provided to combat this risk rather than the child's usual infections.

Others only partially complete the course of antibiotics, assuming that there's no need to continue if the ears seem healthy. In reality, not giving your child all their antibiotics could lead to any infectious bacteria left multiplying and becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment. 

Consider Ear Plugs in Water

Generally, earplugs aren't needed when a child with ear tubes goes swimming. Even when the head is submerged in water, it won't usually enter the tubes. While this is a general rule, it's important to note that there are some exceptions. 

Certain situations pose a greater risk than others. Swimming in deep water, for example, can be a problem, as the higher pressure can force water deeper into the ears. Likewise, swimming in water that's not chlorinated (for example, in lakes or hot tubs) carries an infection risk due to the higher levels of bacteria present. Even in shallow, chlorinated water, some children may experience discomfort and discharge after swimming without ear plugs.

If your child does need ear plugs while swimming, make sure you purchase them from a reputable medical provider; homemade solutions like toilet paper and putty can get stuck in the ears and cause damage. 

Talk to the Surgeon

Above all, it's important to stay in regular contact with your child's ENT surgeon until the ear tubes naturally fall out. Even if your child's ears seem healthy and the ear tubes appear to be working, 2 to 3 check-ups per year are recommended to ensure there aren't any underlying, asymptomatic issues. 

If there are problems with the tubes or ears, don't hesitate to contact the ENT surgeon even if your child isn't due a checkup. Heavy or prolonged drainage, excessive ear wax, persisting infections, hearing loss, pain, fever, or balance problems are all valid reasons to get in touch with the paediatric surgeon. The sooner any problems are caught, the sooner they can be rectified.

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