Summertime Care of Tympanostomy Tubes

tympanostomy tubeStatistics show that every year almost half a million children undergo surgeries under anesthesia in which ear tubes are inserted into their ear drums. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and is carried out to remove any fluid that may have become trapped behind the ear drum and to prevent recurrent ear infections. A few other reasons exist, but these two are the more common.

The purpose of the tube is to ensure that the pressure reaches the same value on both sides of the ear drum; hence preventing the fluid from building up in the child’s middle ear, preventing loss of hearing and significantly reducing the risk of any ear infections. This procedure is also carried out if an infection persists despite an antibiotic therapy.

Changes in Guidelines

Previously, it was recommended that those children who had these tubes inside their ears, had to wear ear plugs whenever involved in any water activities, including when taking a shower, bath, or swimming.

Following these guidelines, many children wore ear plugs especially when swimming to keep the water out of their ear canal as well as out of the tube itself. It has been found that the water typically does not enter the tube during swimming, leading to a change in the guidelines for children with tympanostomy tubes.

It is now a fact that the majority of children need not wear ear plugs when swimming. Nonetheless, it is still recommended that they do so under the following conditions:

  • When experiencing discomfort or pain or discomfort if water enters their ear canal
  • If a discharge/drainage is seen from their ear canal
  • If there are frequent or extended episodes of drainage from ears

There are other instances where ear plugs may be required for use by children when:

  • They are swimming at a depth of more than 6 feet
  • They are swimming in non-chlorinated pools, or lakes
  • They are dunking their head in the bath tub (problems can be caused due to soapy water)

With that said, the individual case should be observed and the child should be allowed into the water without earplugs only if the above situations do not exist.

Jerald S. Altman, M.D. is an Otolaryngologist-Head and Neck Surgeon (ENT doctor) and is the coauthor of Don’t Stick Sticks Up Your Nose! Don’t Stuff Stuff In Your Ears! He was recognized as a Phoenix Top Doc in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Dr. Altman loves taking care of children’s ear, nose, and throat issues. After publishing many peer-reviewed journal articles, he recognized the need for a children’s book dealing with a common problem in his practice.

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