Pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) disorders remain among the primary reasons children visit a physician, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Most pediatricians are prepared to handle an ear infection or a runny nose — but how do you know when your child needs to see a specialist?
1. Snoring is not normal.
“A lot of parents think snoring is cute and funny, but it is not normal,” said Eliav Gov-Ari, MD, an associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and pediatrics. “When a child snores persistently, it isn’t cause for immediate concern but warrants further evaluation by a pediatrician or ENT doctor.”
Certain conditions, such as sleep apnea, can lead to a variety of health issues including malformation of facial bones, behavior issues and even bed-wetting. Be sure to tell your child’s pediatrician if your child snores frequently. The doctor can decide if your child should be referred to a pediatric ENT specialist.
2. A recurring cold doesn’t always turn into a sinus infection.
It’s no secret that children are prone to getting colds. Kids can have a runny nose and cough every three to four weeks, Gov-Ari said.
“It is totally normal for children — especially those in day care — to have a recurring cold,” he said. A common cold, in most cases, is viral and cannot be treated with antibiotics. The decision to prescribe antibiotics should be carefully made by your primary care physician.
If your child’s cold symptoms last more than seven days, especially if symptoms worsen, it’s probably time to call the doctor.
3. Consider ear tubes for recurring ear infections.
Ear tubes improve air pressure and hearing for your child. In many cases, ear tubes are a great solution for ear infections.
“In certain conditions, putting ear tubes in will help prevent future ear infections and the need for additional rounds of antibiotics,” Gov-Ari said.
The decision whether to use ear tubes is made with input from a child’s parents, pediatrician and the pediatric ENT specialist.
“We take into account a number of things, including the level of hearing, presence of fluid in the middle ear and language development,” Gov-Ari said.
If your child has had more than three ear infections in six months, Gov-Ari recommends you ask your child’s pediatrician if ear tubes are appropriate.
4. Ear, nose and throat doctors treat more than ear infections and tonsillitis.
It’s true that ear infections, runny noses and tonsillitis are common reasons parents bring their children to a pediatric ENT specialist. However, pediatric ENT specialists at MU Health Care also treat everything from head and neck cancer, to hearing loss or impairment, facial fractures, swallowing disorders, balance disorders and more.
“We treat patients from the minute they are born — sometimes even before they are born — through age 18,” Gov-Ari said.
If you think your child would benefit from seeing a pediatric ENT specialist, talk to your child's pediatrician or call 573-817-3000.