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Ear Infections: Facts for Parents About Otitis Media (page 3)

— National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Updated on Feb 17, 2011

Will my child need surgery?

Some children with otitis media need surgery. The most common surgical treatment involves having small tubes placed inside the ear. This surgery is called a myringotomy. It is recommended when fluids from an ear infection stay in the ear for several months. At that stage, fluid may cause hearing loss and speech problems. A doctor called an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat surgeon) will help you through this process if your child needs an operation. The operation will require anesthesia.

In a myringotomy, a surgeon makes a small opening in the ear drum. Then a tube is placed in the opening. The tube works to relieve pressure in the clogged ear so that the child can hear again. Fluid cannot build up in the ear if the tube is venting it with fresh air.

After a few months, the tubes will fall out on their own. In rare cases, a child may need to have a myringotomy more than once.

Another kind of surgery removes the adenoids. This is called an adenoidectomy. Removing the adenoids has been shown to help some children with otitis media who are between the ages of 4 and 8. We know less about whether this can help children under age 4.

What about children in daycare, pre-school, or school?

Even before your child has an ear infection or needs to take medicine, ask the daycare program or school about their medication policy. Sometimes you will need a note from your doctor for the staff at the school. The note can tell the people at your child's school how and when to give your child medicine if it is needed during school hours. Some schools will not give children medicine. If this is the case at your child's school, ask your doctor how to schedule your child's medicine. 

What else can I do for my child?

Here are a few things you can do to lower your child's risk of getting otitis media. The best thing you can do is to pay attention to your child. Know the warning signs of ear infections, and be on the lookout if your child gets a cold. If you think your child has an ear infection, call the doctor.

Do not smoke around your child. Smoke is not good for the delicate parts inside your child's ear.

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