Ear Infections - Tubes or Antibiotics?

Jackie - posted on 03/17/2010 ( 20 moms have responded )




So I started thinking of this last nite b/c my daughter has chronic ear infections. So the fix is to either get a course of antibiotics everytime, or when they are chronic to get tubes put in. The follow question applies ONLY to those situations where ear infections are deemed to be CHRONIC.

So I have seen many different posts, but specifically in the CIO thread last week, about how some of you could never let your baby cry. And general comments of how some of the protective moms would never subject their child to something that would be uncomfortable if there was any other way etc. So here is what I am wondering: Tubes being put in is not a requirement, it's an alternative fix to medicine. So would you have your baby go through the procedure of having tubes put in, or would you just keep giving them antibiotics since that doesn't make them cry or be uncomfortable.

**For the sake of staying on topic let's keep the discussion based on a child too young to be able to comprehend what is going - so you can't explain it to them**. Because obviously if you starting talking about a 4 year old you can just tell them what is going on.


Geralyn - posted on 03/18/2010




Not only is there the risk of antibiotics becoming ineffective. Every time a person takes antibiotics, it wipes out the good flora thereby potentially exposing the person to other health issues. I think, too, that antibiotics need to be used sparingly.

The bigger concern for me that several moms voiced also that chronic infections can cause damage to the ear, sometimes permanent damage, and all of this can affect speech and langauge development. I do not view tubes are not being required in all cases; I definitely think that in chronic cases, it would be necessary. Also, I do not see them as an alternative fix to medicine, because the antibiotic is a temporary fix - with its own risks, is not a cure, and cannot prevent future infections. I do not have personal experience with tubes, but have known parents whose children were faced with the possibility of tubes.

It was funny to see this question framed in terms of CIO. I am not for CIO, and I would never let my baby fall asleep crying as part of sleep training. That does not mean that my son does not cry... and I hold him through his tears. My response, my decision. However, because I do not subscribe to CIO does not mean that I would avoid an operation due to temorary discomfort and tears or need for soothing after an operation. Its not avoidance of tears, its helping my son through his tears, simply put. I would be weighing the pain that he is experiencing (like several moms have described) with the chronic infections with the likelihood of success of the operation - hopefully eliminating or at least drastically reducing the severity or frequency of the infections - even though there may be discomfort. I think ALL moms - CIO believers or not - would be holding their little ones through the discomfort of an operation until they were feeling better after the operation.

I agree with your decision to move ahead with tubes because, to me, anything that could potentially affect language development/delay and cause perhaps irreparable harm to the ear needs to be addressed with the most successful treatment, which in my opinion is not antibiotics in chronic cases.

Ashley - posted on 03/17/2010




Yes I would have the tubes put in if my child had repeated infections. I'm not a big fan of antibiotics being used excessively and feel if the infections keep coming back, why not try the tubes?
I don't see why people would think you are horrible Jackie, I agree with you. Medications have their place, but when they don't seem to get the job done, it's time for an alternative!

Jackie - posted on 03/17/2010




Personally I am all for tubes in chronic cases. I just made the call to get the referral yesterday. I firmly believe in treating the cause not the symptom and I would much rather have my daughter go through a procedure and a little bit of discomfort for a long term fix....not to mention to avoid the negative effects of continually being on antibiotics. But I know many people think I am horrible for being willing to have her undergo a procedure some would consider "unnecessary". Looking forward to seeing what others think!


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[deleted account]

A lot of kids do apparently grow out of them, usually by 2 or 3! I know when I was younger they wouldn't even consider putting tubes in ur ears until you reached 4-5 I'm guessing it was to make sure that it wasn't something you'd grow out of?!!

[deleted account]

My oldest son had chronic ear infections starting at around 5 months until he was almost 3 years old when he had his tubes put in. He went through every antibiotic available and was on antibiotics for 6 weeks straight up until they put his tubes in. After that he never had another infection again. The only down side was that you always have to remember to put in ear plugs when swimming or bathing. I honestly think that an ear infection is much more uncomfortable than having tubes. When my son was older he got whooping cough (even though he was immunized) and they had a heck of a time finding an antibiotic that would work on him because he had taken so many before that he was "antibiotic resistant" Trust me when your kid is REALLY sick and antibiotics don't work on them it's seriously scary. He had to go on double dose anti-pneumonia adult strength antibiotics (you aren't even supposed to drive a vehicle while taking them and he was only 9 years old) I wish I had gotten his tubes in sooner because now I get seriously freaked out every time he gets really sick.
Also I remember my son getting his tubes and it never hurt him. It took about 20 minutes max and he woke up in recovery like he was waking up from a nap. He was more distressed that he couldn't eat breakfast that morning then anything. lol I honestly don't know if he had any idea at all what happened to him, he never complained that it hurt at all. If anything he could actually hear because there was so much fluid behind his ears before the procedure. They fell out when he was about 7 or 8 years old and his holes in his ear drums have healed. He has never had another ear infection.
Personally I would pick the tubes over the antibiotics. But I believe that parents also have the right to choose what they deem best for their child and every situation is different.

Jane - posted on 03/18/2010




My daughter, who is now 20 had chronic ear infections from the age of 6 months to almost 2 years of age. We went through EVERY antibiotic available back then with no results and were at the point where there was one more antibiotic to try and if that didn't work, it was tubes. The last antibiotic, which was pretty new back then was Augmentin. It worked. We would treat when she had ear infections and honestly, once she turned 2, the eustation tubes obviously matured enough for the ear infections to stop. I was not keen on the idea of having tubes put in my daughters ears...not only did it freak me out but there are also a lot of precautions that have to be taken when those tubes are in. However, I didn't want her suffering the ear infections either so it was so hard. I was just so thankful that the Augmentin worked for her and she eventually grew out of it.

LaCi - posted on 03/18/2010




I used to get ear infections when I was a baby. The doctor did want to put tubes in my ears but my mother refused. I haven't had any that I can remember in my life, so it did stop happening on its own. I was also at home mostly, no daycares or anything. A friend of mine's son kept getting ear infections after he went to daycare. She did have tubes put in his ears and now he's perfectly fine. I think its a personal choice, I haven't been in that situation so I really don't know what I would do.

April - posted on 03/18/2010




antibiotics stop working eventually when you've had so many courses, so i would go the tube route. chronic ear infections could leave a child with a strong hearing loss, which i have no desire for that to happen to my child. i have a profound loss myself, although it wasn't from ear infections, i don't want my child to be deaf. he was born hearing and i would like it to stay that way!

Jackie - posted on 03/18/2010




You are right Dana, I do think it's alot easier for someone to be against it due to the fact that it is surgery when they have never been up all nite with a screaming unconsolable baby. When tylenol and all the cuddling in the world can't stop the screaming I know the pain is bad...b/c this isn't fussing/whining....this is the "please make it stop mommy" scream for hours no end. NO FUN!

And of course their are risks with anesthesia...but they are slim. Can something happen - of course, but how often does it really happen? You need to think not in terms of the 1 negative story that hits the news, but how many people are put under every hour worldwide successfully.....and to me that is a better alternative than the "super bugs".

Amber - posted on 03/18/2010




im having problems trying to get them to put the tubes in! When my son turned 1 and we noticed that his speech wasnt were it should be we took him to his ped. After she went threw his charts she noticed that he did have "fluid" in is ears for most of the year and that it took a long time b4 it would go away so we got a refural to an ENT. After doing some test we found out that it was not fluid it was neg. pressure in the tube between his nose and his ear and it was causeing his ear drum to be sucked in so for him everything sounded like he was under water. So the dr. put him on Zyrtec and at the 3 month visit everything looked normal. So the dr. wanted to keep him on the med. until the weather got better and then see how his ears did. my son is 20 months now and 2 weeks ago we had to take him to urgent care bc i noticed that he stoped talking again. the dr there said that he had an infection and gave him antibiotics. with in the next 3 days he was coved in a rash which his ped. said was viral and linked to the ear infection. we went back to the ENT after the meds were gone (btw they give him the shits and so he gets HORRIABLE welts on his behind) and he said that his ears looked good and that he still wanted to keep him on zyrtec until mid April and then see him in mid May to see if his ears stayed looking good..

see my issue now is i am just ready for them to put the tubes bc now my son is EXTREALMY behind in his speech and i am worried that that may affect him later on down the rode. he starts school in Aug. and im worried about how far behind he is going to be.

but in other words. Yes i believe that tubs are a better alternative to antibiotics.

[deleted account]

I have no experience w/ chronic ear infections, but I think I would go the route of tubes in that case. I try to avoid the use of antibiotics whenever possible. I'm not interested in helping to create 'super bugs'. ;)

[deleted account]

Ok, I've settled myself down......* big sigh *

When I was younger it was much more difficult to get a referal to have the procedure done so unfortunately for me and my poor mother I ended up at the hospital because my ear drum almost ruptured ( or something to that affect; ask my mom! LOL! ) and they had to do emergency surgery! I can remember YEARS of one after the other, after the other of ear infections........my mom told me in ONE year I had 8 ear infections!

[deleted account]

Funny that I don't remember having the surgery BUT I definitely remember the THROBBING, ACHING UNBELIEVABLE PAIN that consumes ur entire face and head! Sharp pains shooting thru ur ear canal........UGH! HORRIBLE! PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!??

[deleted account]

WELL, I had tubes in my ears when I was 5 years old.....OMG! CHRONIC EAR INFECTIONS = PAINFUL! I would definitely recommend tubes when necessary! Antibiotics are nasty and eventually you just become immune to them! Like you said Jackie, antibiotics only treat the symptom! I want to know who would consider the procedure " unecessary "? They obviously haven't suffered with chronic ear aches! Good for you on decided to get it done; your daughter will thank you! OR not, cuz she won't even remember the surgery......I didn't!

Rosie - posted on 03/17/2010




i think the downside doctors that are quick to be putting tubes in is that it's general anesthesia. that's major surgery.

i think tubes are better than antibiotics for chronic cases. my oldest son had tubes put in at a year old. he pretty much had an earinfection for 6 months. there was always water behind his ear, and if it wasn't infected there was always the water which was uncomfortable. i think every 2 weeks after the first course of antibiotics was done, we'd have to go on them again.

after his tubes, he did continue to have more infections than a normal child, but there wasn't constant water behind the drum like before, and eventually-i'd say a year his ear infections stopped. overall i think tubes are the best case for chronic ones, but there needs to be more definition for chronic amongst doctors, so they don't go doing major surgery willy nilly on every kid.

Jackie - posted on 03/17/2010




Ok I see what you are saying. Yes I don't agree with needing to go through with the procedure for one or two ear infections a year. I thought you were referring to doctors "to quick to do it" for chronic cases too.

And some of them are not severe (as you mentioned your nephew). Of my daughters five, only 2 have been severe...but they get the same antibiotic regardless of severity so that still has the same effect on them. So I just think its totally about the # of ear infections over a certain span of time. my hope is one set of tubes and then she will have outgrown it. I def. won't automatically opt for a second set to be put in when these fall out...I will wait it out and see if she develops any more infections first.

[deleted account]

Like I said, I don't remember where that info came from. But if I were to guess, I would say docs are quick to put in tubes after only 1 or 2 infections or when the child could possibly outgrow the problem. I would have put tubes in my daughter's ears if I were in your situation. 5 ear infections in 4 months sounds very severe, not to mention all those antibiotics.

Jackie - posted on 03/17/2010




But my question is then Sara...you say doctors are quick to put in tubes...what's the downside to that (beyond the temporary discomfort of the procedure)?? Repeat antibiotics has a downside, your body can become immune to them and they won't work when you need them for the 1 off infection (i.e. strep throat or the like).

And I have heard the average is 3 ear infections per year, never heard a stat on what is considered "normal" vs. "chronic" though. I do know though that since Thanksgiving my daughter has had 5 ear infections x a 10 day course of antibiotics is almost 2 solid months out of 4 of medication three times a day.

Lady - posted on 03/17/2010




My 1 year old son has just completed a course of antibiotics not for ear infections but he screamed everytime I had to give them to him - wouldn't take it off a spoon, I had to hold him and squirt it in his mouth and that was four times a day for a week.

[deleted account]

Don't quote me but I heard somewhere that 6 or less ear infections in a year is still okay and considered normal. I also heard that doctors are quick to put in tubes because parents are at their wits end and want a quick fix. (I probably read that somewhere, I remember almost everything I read but I can't tell you where it came from)

That being said, tubes do have their place. I wouldn't do it if my child had one or two ear infections but repeated and frequent, yes. I'm not a fan of antibiotics either. So that kind of puts me in a tough spot.

Luckily my daughter does not have ear problems. Not one ear infection. =) She did recently have strep throat and I was all about the antibiotic for that. If she has repeated issues with her throat, my husband wants her tonsils out. So I guess that's kind of the same thing...fixing the problem permanently with tubes or removing the tonsils instead of repeated antibiotics.

My nephew is 10 months old and just had his first set of tubes put in. I'm not sure how I feel about it. He's had several ear infections, but they never seem too severe. Of course, I'm not his mother so I only see part of the picture. My niece and nephews seem to be on medication quite a bit though.

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