Thursday 17 October 2019

Dear Dr Nina: My toddler is prone to ear infections

File photo
File photo

Nina Byrnes

Q Why does my toddler get recurrent ear infections?

Dr Nina replies: Earache may be due to congestion in the eustachian tube. This tube runs from the back of the nose to the middle ear. If this is congested, pressure builds up, potentially causing an earache. Parents commonly think ear pain equates to ear infection, but this isn't always the case.

Allergic rhinitis is associated with this. It causes a sensation of blocked nose, congestion and can cause sneezing, itchy eyes and nasal drip. Other symptoms include reduced taste, red eyes, mouth breathing, snoring, reduced sleep and fatigue.

If indeed the earache is frequently due to a middle-ear infection, then enlarged adenoids may be the cause. Adenoids are lymph tissue similar to tonsils but are located high at the top of the throat, behind the nose. Unlike tonsils, they are not visible on an examination of the mouth. Adenoids, like tonsils, help our bodies fight infection. They are active early in life and can become quite enlarged. They usually start to shrink from about five years of age, almost disappearing by the teen years. Symptoms may include nasal voice, mouth breathing, leading to a dry mouth and cracked lips, along with snoring, noisy breathing or restless sleep.

In milder conditions, a GP may prescribe antibiotics and nasal drops to help clear any infection and allow the adenoids to shrink. If symptoms are recurrent or not settling, it is worth being referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

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