Kids get colds a lot. That’s just part of being a kid. Their immune systems are learning by doing; and doing means practicing germ fighting on every cold virus and bacteria around. Every cold doesn’t mean a trip to the pediatrician, but there may come a time when those colds turn into ear infections. Then the ear infections turn into recurring ear infections. When that happens, it’s time to see the ENT.

Why kids get more ear infections

In adults, the ears drain into the back of the nose and then down the throat. It is a vertical shot and gravity is a big help. In kids, the space between the ear and the back of the nose isn’t very long and because of the small head size, it is almost horizontal. That means gravity can’t help drainage. It also means that bacteria and fluid can linger. When that happens, the environment is ripe for an infection.

When is it time to see the pediatric ENT?

Most colds resolve themselves in seven to 10 days. Since they are mainly viral, antibiotics don’t help. Treatment is generally at home and focuses on relieving symptoms to make your child more comfortable.

Severe colds may be seen by the pediatrician. When the colds develop into ear infections, the child definitely should be seen by the pediatrician. However, there comes a time when the pediatrician should refer your child to a pediatric ENT. That time may vary from child to child. However, if your child has anywhere from three to five ear infections in a year and the pediatrician doesn’t recommend a visit to the ENT, you should bring it up.

At that rate, the ear infections have become chronic and need treatment by an ENT that treats children.

Don’t children outgrow ear infections?

As your child grows, their head will grow and the space between the ears and back of the nose will grow as well. In addition, because of changes in the size of the head, that area will go from horizontal to a more vertical axis. This means gravity can help drainage. This growth usually occurs by the fifth birthday. If your child is still having chronic ear infections after the age of five, they should be seen by the pediatric ENT.

How pediatric ENTs treat ear infections

The ENT can examine your child’s ear to look for underlying causes of the ear infections. Medications may be prescribed to fight infection and reduce inflammation. However, the ENT may also opt to insert small tubes in your child’s ear to help fluid drain.

This procedure is one of the most common procedures an ENT performs. Since ENTs are trained as surgeons, you will not need referral to another medical specialist for the procedure.

If tubes are needed, the procedure is minor and recovery is quick. It is well worth it to reduce the risk of hearing loss due to chronic infection.