Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ear Infections, Tubes or Something Else?

I stay away from heated debates about clipping your newborn son's body, breast feeding, and immunizations.  These are all a parent's decision and they make the best one they can for their child with the information they have available to them.  That being said, I won't debate my stance on ear tubes but I will share my story.  If my story helps one family, then it was worth the effort to tell it.

Many Dr's push tubes when a child has had a recurrent ear infection or fluid build up on their ears.  My son had this from birth to 18 months - they did antibiotic shots, he did overnight stays in the hospital with the flu because with his ears already causing him stomach upset it was so easy for him to dehydrate, you name it he'd been put through it.  Finally around a year old the Dr said maybe it was time for tubes.

I felt uneasy.  Most of the kids I had known to get tubes wound up having to redo them at least once.  It was a pita when the kid went swimming and stuck their head under when no one was looking, etc.   It's also a band aid procedure.  There.  That's how I feel about it without getting technical.  It means the child is having ear infections, don't know what the root cause is so let's put a band aid on it and stop it.

They also don't tell you the risks and complications.  Like the little boy who has constant puss drainage and his ear actually smells and the Drs say that's normal the tubes are doing their job until he's screaming in pain and you take him to the ER and it's the tube not fitting properly about to burst his ear drum.  Infected.  Painful.  Could potentially cause the hearing loss so many parents are trying to avoid.

So - my first step at a year old was to get online.  I discovered a common cause for the actual ear infection is allergies.  Allergies? No. My kid doesn't have those.  Have they been tested? Do you really know that for a fact?  Believe me when I say his list of allergies shocked everyone including his Dr.  He was allergic to dust, dogs, rice, peanut butter, and soy.  Almost half of what he was eating was probably causing part of his problems.  (On another note we went in for his retest when he started school and he'd outgrown all but the dust allergy! The only thing we always have to be aware of is the fact the peanut butter one could come back with a vengance.)

So we removed the allergens from his diet and environment as best as possible, who doesn't have a little dust exposure? Especially at the time living on a rural dust road.  I mean gravel road.  You get the idea.  After we got the allergies under control the fluid on his ears was lessened but still there.  Except now my Dr noticed something else, his adenoids were huge.  His tonsils were inflamed and swollen.

Sure enough, the ENT said he needed those removed before we did any more tube talk.  At 18 months he had those removed, it was a rough week trying to get him to drink after surgery and hydrate but if you asked me would I do it again?  My answer would be YES YES YES.

When you consider tubes consider the risks and ask yourself if you have ruled out the common culprit of allergies.  It's a simple stick test and the child can eat a sucker while the Dr checks their back/stomach for all of the common allergens.  In addition to the risks with tubes that get stuck, don't fall out naturally, get infected - are you prepared to do another tube surgery when that set falls out and the ears are still acting up? Then research how many kids with tubes wind up later getting tonsils/adenoids removed because now the chances have gone from putting them through surgery once for tubes, twice if they need a second set, and a third time for the tonsils/adenoids.

Tubes are a temporary solution and when they do their job as they are supposed to, everything's great.  I'm not telling you what to do.  It's your kid.  There are tonsil/adenoid removal risks too - everything has a risk.  I'd still point out there's a high % of people after tubes that wind up still having to have the other surgery though and I'd also point out in our case the tonsils/adenoids were a 100% success rate.  He never had another ear infection.  The child who's ears almost had the drum rupture from the tube and later did tonsils/adenoids - never had another infection after the tonsils.  Tonsils have risks too but in a lot of these cases your going to wind up doing it later anyway.

So just ask your Dr the questions now.  Ask them if it could be allergies.  Ask them if the tonsils are enlarged or adenoids.  Be comfortable with your decision to go the tube route and don't just think "everyone has tubes, it's 100% safe, and it's going to be a fix all" because a lot of parents feel let down when it didn't fix all.
Do the research, ask the questions, and feel comfortable.  Only you - not me, not the Internet, not any other mom has to live with the choices you make which is why I don't debate the above issues.  I didn't post this to debate tubes.  I posted this to tell OUR story and maybe give you a different perspective especially if like I was, your already uncomfortable going the tube route.