Ear Tubes 301: How to Care for a Child’s Ears After Ventilation Tube Surgery
In this third of a three-part series, D. Randall Pinkston, MD, Otolaryngologist, discusses care for your child’s ears after surgery to place ventilation tubes.
Ventilation tubes are often recommended for children who experience persistent ear infections. The tubes ventilate the ears so that infection has a minimal chance of recurring.
Is Any Special Care Required for a Child with Ventilation Tubes in Her Ears?
The only special care would be water precautions, Dr. Pinkston says.
Parents need to be careful about water getting into their child’s ears once the tubes have been placed, Dr. Pinkston advises. He recommends that children avoid water contamination from:
- Any other body of water
“Fluid won’t even develop if the ear’s ventilated. It’s a way of improving quality of life.”
Bathing infants with ventilation tubes may pose a challenge. Dr. Pinkston suggests “washing your baby’s head until soapy and then put your hand over her little ear and fold it down to rinse her head off. You may use an earplug if you wish.”
For older children who want to be active in a pool or at the beach, Dr. Pinkston suggests a two-pronged plan:
- Putty Buddies—malleable, colorful earplugs that block the ear canal
- Ear Bandit—neoprene Velcro headband
“If your older child wears the Ear Bandit with the Putty Buddies earplugs, she can do anything she wants in a pool, no restrictions at all,” says Dr. Pinkston.
How Long Do the Tubes Last?
The tubes stay in roughly six to eight months, says Dr. Pinkston. They generally attach themselves to a piece of earwax and fall out on their own. If they don’t, surgery may be required to remove them to avoid further problems.
What Happens If I Don’t Get Tubes for My Child?
“The natural history of an ear infection before we had tubes was you got inflammation, oftentimes with viruses or bacteria that involve the middle ear,” explains Dr. Pinkston. “Fluid accumulates, which turns into purulence, pus.”
“That pus causes pressure to build up. It’s excruciatingly painful when that process is happening. That’s usually when the child runs fever, they’re crying and all that. And then it pops, it ruptures, it drains, and the child feels better,” Dr. Pinkston say. That’s nature’s way of taking care of it.
“But if the child is going to go through that every month through his infant years or through the first few years, it would be better to ventilate the ear,” Dr. Pinkston says, “so that infection has a minimal chance of occurring. Fluid won’t even develop if the ear’s ventilated. It’s a way of improving quality of life.”