Q: Are there alternatives to tubes? My child will be 2 in a few weeks and she's never been sick. Now she's been diagnosed with an ear infection. She never pulled on her ears or showed any signs of pain. I took her to the doctor when she had pus coming out of her eyes, assuming it was pink eye. They told me it was from an ear infection and she's been on three different antibiotics in the past two weeks. She's also getting injections, and if this doesn't work he said tubes would be necessary. How is this possible if this is her first ear infection? -- Worried Mom
A: You could always take her to a different doctor to get a second opinion. The alternatives to tubes are medications, and that is currently what your doctor is prescribing. In any case, please don't be afraid of letting them put in the tubes. This ear surgery is very common among preschoolers, even those your child's age and younger.
Most young children don't have obvious symptoms of these infections. Some perfectly healthy children become irritable from ear infections but they cannot explain what feels wrong to them. Some, like your child, don't even experience pain with the infection. She may have even had infections prior to this one. After recurring ear infections, children usually get the tubes put in.
If tubes are the answer for your child, do not delay. Remember that the infection is causing your child's hearing to be compromised at an age at which good hearing is vital to learning speech and language. Right now she's trying to listen to and learn words; with an ear infection, her hearing is being impaired. Hearing loss from middle ear infection drainage can affect her speech, hearing and learning at this important stage of development. Your doctor should explain to you why he wants to do the tubes soon, but it's my guess it's to protect her eardrums and hearing.
This procedure is usually a one-time deal, and the tubes will pop out on their own (or be shed) in 6-18 months. The tubes help reduce ear infections in most children and allow for drainage whenever your child is on eardrops or antibiotics.
You should read the classic book about ear surgery written by Vicki Lansky, "Koko Bear's Big Earache; Preparing Your Child for Ear Tube Surgery." It explains everything you need to know and is written so that children (and parents) fully understand and are prepared for the ear surgery. Most bookstores and libraries have this book; check Amazon too.
Note To Mom of Teen Daughter: You need to let go of your disappointment and anger and sit down with your teen. Talk calmly about sex and the risks of getting pregnant or getting sexually transmitted diseases. Give examples of ways life would change drastically if she got pregnant.
Teens can get pregnant, even if they take "precautions." Take action to make her safe from potentially even bigger problems. Take her to see a female gynecologist, get her some advice, and help her follow it.
Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com.