Ear infections are one of the top reasons a child visits the pediatrician.
The pain can be excruciating, and when they are recurrent, cause a child to miss school, parents to miss work and also an increased use of antibiotics.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, by the age of 5, nearly every child has experienced at least one ear infection.
Ear tubes, or tympanostomy tubes, have long been known to help mitigate this pain, but when is your child a candidate for the procedure?
Dr. Laura Rosenthal, ear, nose and throat (otolaryngology) specialist at Lurie Children's, says, "Generally, ear tubes can be considered for a child if fluid persists behind the ear drum for more than three months, or if a child has experienced more than three episodes of acute otitis media (middle ear infection) in the last six months."
Most of the time, children and even adults can have fluid stuck behind the ear drum that will resolve on its own.
Lurie Children's otolaryngologists perform ear tube placement at the main hospital in downtown Chicago and at outpatient centers in Westchester, Lake Forest, New Lenox and soon Northbrook.
Ear tube surgery is one of the most common childhood surgeries performed in the United States.
"To place ear tubes means that an incision is made in the ear drum. Immediately, any fluid that is behind the ear drum is removed. A small silicone tube is placed to keep a hole open and allow pressure behind the ear drum to remain equal to the pressure around us," says Rosenthal. "Without fluid behind the ear drum or a buildup of pressure, the child should be much more comfortable, hear better and feel better."
Ear tube surgery generally takes just a few minutes and most children are able to go home the same day. In fact, most children can resume normal activities including school the following day.
Rosenthal points out that for most children ear tubes will prevent ear infections.
"Ear tubes fall out after about one year -- sometimes sooner and sometimes later. Once the ear tubes fall out and the hole in the ear drum heals, a child could get ear infections again," she says. "However, most children will only need one set of ear tubes and will grow out of having recurring ear infections."
• Children's Health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. For more information, visit luriechildrens.org.