Babies, Children & Teens

Ear Infections: Is It Time for Ear Tubes?

If your little one has repeated infections, talk to your doctor about this quick surgery

Any parent who has consoled a crying baby in the middle of the night knows that ear infections are pretty much a rite of passage during childhood (although you can get them at any age). With an infant, you might only be able to recognize what’s going on if she’s tugging on her ear between sobs and has a fever. An older child can tell you he’s experiencing pain, having trouble hearing or feeling other discomfort.
Your child’s pediatrician will most likely treat an ear infection with antibiotics. But if your little one repeatedly suffers from an ear infection, it might be time to consider ear tubes. One of the most common childhood surgeries—more than half a million are performed each year—ear tubes provide immediate relief and restore hearing. The 10-minute procedure is done under general anesthesia, and many children never again experience the misery of another ear infection. The tubes usually fall out by themselves after a year.
If you child has repeated infections—three within a six-month period or four over the course of a year—fluid buildup lasts longer than six months or antibiotics don’t clear up the infection, it’s time to have the ear tube talk with your pediatrician.

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