Ear, nose and throat ailments are some of leading causes that prompt a child’s visit to the doctor. Because children’s immune systems are not fully developed, they are more prone to infections in the ears, nose and throat areas.
Ear infections are the most common, causing an estimated 25 million visits to the pediatrician each year. Because these ear infections frequently occur in the winter and early spring the American Academy of Otolaryngology deemed February as “Kids E.N.T Month.”
In order to promote children’s ear, nose and throat health, Dr. Nicholas Peiffer, a physician on the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center, provides advice on how to treat and prevent the most common ENT problems in children.
Q: How should children clean their ears?
A: I stick to the age-old adage that you shouldn’t stick anything in your ear “smaller than your elbow.” After bathing, it is okay to use a cloth or cotton swab to clean the outer entrance to the child’s ear canal, but do not stick anything down into the canal. The ear canal is designed to clean itself and expel wax out on its own. If your child seems to have problems with wax, using some diluted hydrogen peroxide or mineral oil on a weekly basis can help soften the wax. I would advise against trying to stick things down the ear canal to remove the wax and ask your pediatrician or ENT before trying any other agents for wax removal.
Q: What causes nosebleeds? How can you treat them properly?
A: The vast majority of nosebleeds are caused by allergies and changing climate ultimately drying the nose out. In younger children, nose picking is often a common cause. Keeping the nasal cavity from drying out is the best preventative method. This can include daily nasal saline rinses, rubbing antibiotic ointment or Vaseline inside the nostril at bedtime or using a humidifier. If nosebleeds persist, are routinely heavy lasting several minutes, only come from one side of the nose or there is also a nasal airway blockage, further evaluation by your pediatrician or ENT is necessary. Any child with heavy nosebleeds lasting longer than fifteen minutes may need urgent treatment in an emergency room.
Q: What are some key things to look for in determining if a sore throat could be an infection?
A: Intermittent sore throats that follow an allergy flare up are often caused by nasal drainage irritating the back of the throat, also known as postnasal drip. If the pain is more severe or there are additional symptoms such as fever, body aches or swollen lymph nodes in neck, the child may have developed an infection. Two thirds of throat infections are viral and can be treated conservatively with fluids and rest. The remaining throat infections may be bacterial, commonly strep throat. These children often have high fever, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged red tonsils often with whitish patches covering, and some additional body symptoms such as rash, headache, or stomach pains. Any child with a painful throat that fails to resolve in three days, high fever greater than 102 degrees, difficulty breathing, or difficulty swallowing should be evaluated by their pediatrician or ENT.
Q: What should be done if you can see a child’s tonsils are visibly swollen?
A: If a child’s tonsils are swollen, it is important to evaluate if they are causing any symptoms. The most common problem swollen tonsils can cause is sleep disturbances by obstructing the airway. Observe your child sleeping after they have been asleep for at least 90 minutes and in their deepest sleep. Common symptoms of airway obstruction are snoring, mouth breathing and frequently waking up or stirring. If the child has loud snoring, gasping or there are periods where the child is not breathing for a few seconds or longer, this can be a sign of a more serious sleep disturbance known as obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. If the child has any of the above symptoms, they should be further evaluated by their pediatrician or ENT. Enlarged tonsils can also be associated with recurrent infections, difficulty swallowing or bad breath from food matter trapping.