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5 common pediatric ENT conditions that may affect your child

Young girl getting her ears examined

With an increased demand for common ENT (ears, nose and throat) services in our community, especially with the rise of infections due to the “Triple-demic (RSV, flu and COVID-19), we want to update parents and guardians on the most common ENT ailments their children may face.

February is Pediatric ENT Health Month, so we asked Dr. Evan Longfield, a pediatric and adult ENT at Wellstone Health Partners, to answer a few questions about these ailments.

What is the most common cause of ear infections?

A middle ear infection (otitis media) is very common among children under the age of 2. Often present with other common viral illnesses, otitis media occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear and becomes infected with bacteria, causing pain and difficulty hearing.

Treatment for otitis media usually starts with antibiotics to treat the infection. If the condition returns or happens a lot, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure known as a myringotomy, which places a pressure-equalizing tube in your child’s infected ear. This small tube, placed in the eardrum, helps to drain fluid and prevent infection. Compared to previous years, the current increase in viral illnesses has caused a rise in the rate of children requiring tube placements.

My child has a sore throat and doesn’t feel well. What’s going on?

Your child could have tonsillitis, a common infection of the tonsils that produces a sore throat, difficulty swallowing and fever. This is often caused by Group A Streptococcus, commonly referred to as strep throat. Treatment for tonsillitis/strep throat often involves antibiotics to clear the infection. This is important, as untreated strep throat can have serious complications, such as scarlet fever, rheumatic fever or damage to the kidneys. If strep throat frequently persists, a tonsillectomy (surgical removal of the tonsils) may be recommended for recurrent or severe cases.

We have seen an uptick in strep cases and referrals for recurring cases of tonsillitis in recent years, like the other common viral infections mentioned above. As a result, our community has been faced with a supply shortage of common antibiotics (such as Amoxicillin) normally used to treat strep throat.

My child is snoring louder than my husband. Should I be concerned?

Perhaps. There are 2 conditions, sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), that have become increasingly common in children. Sleep-disordered breathing includes symptoms such as severe snoring and pauses in breathing, which are called “apneas.” Obstructive sleep apnea has these same symptoms, characterized by repeated episodes of partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway during sleep. These obstructions can lead to decreased oxygen levels and fragmented sleep. OSA can cause sleepiness during the day, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and poor school performance.

SDB and OSA in children can be treated with a surgery called a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T&A). Other treatments, including lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and positional therapy, may be considered. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices are often not well tolerated in young children.

How do I tell if my child has a tongue-tie?

Also known as ankyloglossia, tongue-tie is a condition where the tissue (lingual frenulum) connecting the bottom of your child’s tongue to the floor of the mouth is shorter than normal. Often discovered at birth, tongue-tie can lead to difficulties with breastfeeding, speech and oral hygiene. Symptoms of tongue-tie include difficulty in lifting the tongue, sticking the tongue out past the lips and moving the tongue from side to side.

Treatment for tongue-tie typically involves a procedure known as a frenotomy, in which the lingual frenulum is surgically cut to release the tongue. This procedure can be performed using a scalpel or scissors and can be done under local anesthesia in a clinical setting prior to 3 months of age. Recovery time is usually quick, often 1-2 days. If the tongue-tie is discovered later or does not interfere with feeding, it will often be addressed between 1-2 years of age with a short surgical procedure in the operating room. In rare cases, the procedure may need to be repeated if the frenulum re-attaches or if complications arise.

Early diagnosis is key

It is important for parents and guardians to know that early diagnosis and treatment are key to addressing these common pediatric ENT conditions. Wellstone ENT is a comprehensive ENT clinic serving both children and adults. We offer robust care of pediatric ENT patients and perform hundreds of pediatric surgeries each year at Seton Medical Center Harker Heights. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s ENT health, please reach out to our office to schedule a consultation with our dedicated team.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Longfield, visit his web page or call us at (254) 618-1080.