Little ears, noses and throats: When should your child see an ENT specialist?

Mar 26,2014
By Colleen Lennard-Love, MD

Your child’s primary care provider is the first and best place to care for most ailments. As a specialist, the patients I see are those who require concentrated care.

Ear, nose and throat specialists, otherwise known as ENT or otolaryngologists, are doctors who have further training in treating conditions of the head and neck. For kids, that usually means illnesses such as allergies, chronic ear infections and tonsillitis.

Treating children’s allergies early can help prevent more bothersome sinus conditions. A blood test can check for airborne and food allergies. Once the offending agents are identified, treatment options range from oral medications to prescription nasal sprays to allergy drops. Allergy drops are similar to allergy shots; however, they are taken by mouth rather than injected. Allergy drops are a good option for children. Patients as young as age 2 can use the drops, although we usually see the best results starting around age 4 since the patient needs to hold the allergy drops under the tongue for 20 seconds.

Chronic ear infections may also trouble children who have allergies, as well as those in daycare or school where colds are very common. Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke are also at a higher risk for ear infections. Although ear infections can be treated with medication, chronic ear infections may lead to hearing loss in children. When that happens, surgery to place ear tubes may be recommended. The tubes create better drainage within the ear, preventing future infection and helping children continue with their normal learning and development.

Tonsillitis is also fairly common in children. The tonsils — which are located inside the throat — often become sore and inflamed after a cold or sinus infection. Although removing the tonsils used to be common practice, we now have ways to ease the symptoms of tonsillitis without removing them. However, a new problem I see in children is related to sleep-related breathing disorders, where enlarged tonsils can cause obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious condition. For children with sleep apnea, removing tonsils and adenoids may improve symptoms.

If your child is suffering from a chronic ear, nose or throat condition, ask your child’s primary care provider if seeing an ENT could help.


Samaritan Health Services’ ear, nose and throat specialist Colleen Lennard-Love, MD, is accepting new patients by referral. She sees patients at Samaritan Pacific ENT & Allergy in Newport (541-574-4677) and at Samaritan Surgical Clinic in Lincoln City (541-994-8114).
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