ENT deal with more than ear infections. If your child has any of
the following symptoms, you should ask your child's pediatrician
about a referral to a specialist:
Technically it's fall, but it's also a lot of other "seasons":
The holiday season, football season, and Season 2 of 'Modern
Family,' which is everything I dreamed it would be and more.
Oh, and cold and flu season.
One day your child is fine, the next there's the slightest hint
of a runny nose, and by day three, it's an
up-all-night-ear-infection-turned-sinus-snotfest. Your pediatrician
prescribes antibiotics, but three weeks later, it's back again.
And that, experts say, is when it may be time to bring in the
big guns. Otolaryngologists (often called ear, nose and throat
doctors, or ENTS) take over when colds become chronic, difficult to
manage or threaten to turn more serious.
To help clear up what exactly an otolaryngologist does and when
you need to see one, I spoke with Dr. Joseph Donzelli of Midwest
ENT Consultants, a practice with offices in Geneva, Naperville,
Plainfield and Winfield.
First, why do kids get so many ear
Basically, kids have small and funny-shaped heads, and it leaves
them more susceptible to infection. The ear drainage system
runs from the ear to the back of the nose. "In kids, it's shorter
and more horizontal, so it's easier for bacteria to get stuck and
cause an infection," Donzelli says. "As kids grow, the canal
lengthens and becomes more vertical, so infections are less
Among kids, there are some conditions that make them more
susceptible. Children with Down syndrome, and those with certain
facial abnormalities like cleft palates tend to get more ear
Can most ear infections be handled by a pediatrician?
When is it time to see an ENT?
Most ear infections will be seen first by a child's
pediatrician, and then once it hits a magic number, the doctor will
refer them to an ENT, Donzelli says. "That number is
different for every doctor, but generally heading into the winter
months, three ear infections in the past year would be concerning,
and coming out of the winter months, five or more ear infections in
the past year," he says.
When should annual ear infections start tapering
Usually between the ages of 3 and 5, most kids start outgrowing
the problem. But Donzelli says that's also the age that seasonal
allergies start to set in, which can keep some of the symptoms
around and generally confuse the situation. "But generally, if we
have a child older than 5 who's still getting chronic ear
infections, we'll start talking about treatment options," he
The most common treatment option are tubes in the ear, which
doctors use to get rid of chronic fluid and cut down on
recurring ear infections. But there are also things like
antihistamines or nasal sprays that you can discuss with your
When is an ear infection something more
Most earaches are just run-of-the-mill ear infections. But
symptoms that go outside the ear itself could be indicators of two
rare but potentially deadly infections. Mastoiditis is an ear
infection that moves to the mastoid bone of the skull. The telltale
sign is red, swollen and tender skin behind the ear. It's
treatable, but should be taken seriously.
Bacterial meningitis is an infection in the brain that can be
caused by a severe ear infection that goes untreated. Bacterial
meningitis moves quickly, often starting with a stiff neck, and is
a true emergency requiring an immediate trip to the ER.
"If you start seeing swelling behind the ear, or really any
symptoms that seem outside the geographic area of the ear itself,
that's not something to be messed around with," Donzelli says.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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