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Recurrent Ear, Throat, and Sinus Infections In Pediatrics: Signs, Causes, and Treatment

January 10th, 2023 | 6 min. read

By Kathleen Rose McDonald, MD

ear nose and throat infections in children houston ent 2

Houston Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy has ENT physicians at each of our 10 locations throughout the Greater Houston metropolitan area with same-day appointment availability for many conditions, including pediatric recurrent ear, throat, and sinus infections. As an ear, nose, throat, and allergy provider leader, patient care is, and always has been, our top priority. 

Need an ent doctor to see your child asap for an ear, Nose, or sinus infection?

Houston ENT and Allergy has 10 convenient locations to get your child seen today for an ear, throat, and/or sinus Infection.




Recurrent Ear Infections

A chronic, or recurrent, ear infection consists of swelling, fluid, or an infection behind the eardrum that doesn’t heal or keeps coming back.

There are three main types of ear infections. 

  • Otitis media refers to an infection affecting the middle ear or the space behind the eardrum. 
  • An acute middle ear infection that does not heal is known as a chronic ear infection. 
  • Recurrent ear infections can mimic chronic infections of the middle ear and can make it difficult for doctors to treat.


Signs of Recurrent Ear Infections

Recurrent otitis media can produce mild to moderate symptoms in children, and the infection may be present in one or both ears. Infants and small children often cannot communicate with words. As a result, infants communicate by crying or becoming fussier. In other cases, children may exhibit:

  • Pain or pressure in the affected ear
  • A low-grade fever
  • Drainage from the infected ear, which may consist of pus
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hearing impairment
  • Coming and going of symptoms


What Causes Recurrent Ear Infections?

Recurrent ear infections occur when an infection is persistent or long-lasting. Common causes of recurrent ear infections are the common cold, persistent bacterial infections, or the flu. Those with a compromised immune system, recent upper respiratory infection, Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, or a family history of infections are at an increased risk of recurrent ear infections.


Treatment Options for Recurrent Ear Infections

Treating recurrent ear infections is not as straightforward as it seems. Using antibiotics too frequently can have the opposite effect and they can stop working. For recurrent ear infections, your child’s doctor may try dry mopping or flushing the ear to clean discharge and ear wax to speed up recovery.

Other treatment options include:

  • Tympanocentesis. This procedure is performed by a licensed health professional, allowing a doctor to remove fluid that has built up behind the eardrum. Once the fluid has been drained, it is sent to the laboratory for testing to determine the exact cause of the infection and help doctors treat it.
  • Antibiotics. The first line of treatment is antibiotics to help clear a bacterial infection. For those with chronic or recurrent ear infections, antibiotics may be contraindicated due to frequent usage. In cases of a fungal infection causing an ear infection, antifungal drops or ointment will be prescribed to treat the infection.
  • Adenoidectomy. The adenoids are small glands found in the back of the nose that are responsible for helping the body’s immune system fight infections. If these glands are frequently affected, it can lead to a buildup of fluid and cause pain, leading your child’s ENT physician to recommend surgery to remove the adenoids.



Recurrent Throat Infections

Chronic throat infections, like strep throat, can lead to a significant amount of pain. More than 2% of all adult primary care visits are the result of a chief complaint of a sore throat. A sore throat is one of the most common symptoms of allergies, strep throat, dry air, and other infections from common irritants.


Signs of Recurrent Throat Infections

Those suffering from recurrent throat infections are likely to experience a dry, scratchy, or burning sensation in the throat, tenderness, pain, irritation, pain while swallowing or talking, and a raw feeling. The throat may be filled with pus pockets or white patches, indicating an infection is present.


What Causes Recurrent Throat Infections?

Throat infections are generally the result of bacterial or viral infections. Infections often seen by ear, nose, and throat physicians are caused by:

  • Inhaling toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke irritates the lining of the throat. Cigarette smoke is notorious for causing chronic sore throats in people.
  • Allergens, like chemicals in cleaners, pollen, or other irritants, cause an allergic reaction. Allergies may be seasonal or chronic and can result in a runny or stuffy nose, watery and itchy eyes, and a persistent cough.
  • Infections, both viral and bacterial, like streptococcal pharyngitis, tonsillitis, or laryngitis.


Treatment Options for Recurrent Throat Infections

Treatment for recurrent throat infections is difficult because, as previously mentioned, frequent use of antibiotics is contraindicated and not all infections can be treated with antibiotics. Recurrent infections may be due to antibiotic-resistant strains, failure to complete the full course of treatment, a compromised immune system, and lingering bacteria. 

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections but these require a visit to the doctor to receive. When antibiotic treatment is not recommended, you will be instructed to treat the symptoms present like fever, nausea, and a sore throat using over-the-counter medications. 

To prevent recurrent infections, doctors recommend thoroughly washing your hands, avoiding sharing drinks or utensils with others, and keeping a safe distance from sick individuals.


Recurrent Sinus Infections

The sinuses are cavities connected by four channels in the head. They are responsible for helping fluid and mucus drain to rid the body of bacteria. When the sinuses become inflamed, it makes it more difficult for mucus to drain adequately, and can make it difficult to breathe through your nose. When the sinus cavities become impacted with fluid it can allow bacteria and germs to grow, leading to an infection.

Chronic sinusitis or chronic sinus infections occur when the sinuses become swollen and inflamed for 12 weeks or more. 


Signs of Recurrent Sinus Infections

Common signs of chronic sinusitis include difficulty tasting or smelling foods, discolored nasal discharge (green or yellow), postnasal drip, pressure or tenderness in the eyes, cheeks, and forehead, headaches, cough, fatigue, and nausea.


What Causes Recurrent Sinus Infections?

Recurrent sinus infections may be caused by many things including:

  • An allergic reaction from pollen, chemicals, and hay fever causes the sinus cavities to become inflamed, irritated and making it difficult to breathe.
  • Nasal polyps, a growth of tissue in the nose, lead to increased difficulty breathing due to physical obstruction.
  • A deviated septum occurs when the wall dividing the left and right nostrils is not straight. It limits or restricts airflow, causing the sinus cavity to dry out, crack, and become increasingly painful.
  • Viral or bacterial infections, like upper respiratory infections, lead to increased mucus production that cannot drain due to swelling and inflammation.


Treatment Options for Recurrent Sinus Infections

Similar to all infections, when the infection is caused by the presence of bacteria, a doctor will use antibiotics to treat it. Others find relief with over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms like ibuprofen and acetaminophen for headache and sinus pressure, and corticosteroid nasal spray to reduce inflammation, as well as help reduce the size of nasal polyps. 

Other at-home treatment options include the frequent use of water and salt saline solution to lubricate nasal passages that have dried out, allow mucus to drain, and relieve inflammation and swelling.


Surgical Treatment for Recurrent Sinus Infections

  • Endoscopic sinus surgery is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon will insert a small tube with a camera attached into your sinus cavity to visualize the presence of a blockage or nasal polyps and will remove any obstruction as needed.
  • Septoplasty is a surgical procedure used to straighten or reshape a deviated septum. This procedure allows for optimal airflow through the nasal cavity and reduces nasal irritation.
  • Rhinoplasty is a commonly performed plastic surgery, generally used for cosmetic reasons, but may be used to straighten a person’s nose or straighten nostrils, whether it be misshapen due to trauma, congenital defects, or other causes.


Treating Recurrent Pediatric Infections at Houston Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy

Houston Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy has a long history of treating both adults and children. It was founded in 1907, when patients would travel by street car to visit Dr. John Foster. What was once a one-man show has grown exponentially into a practice with multiple ENT physicians at each of our 10 convenient locations throughout the Houston area, including:

Patient care has been the top priority of Houston Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy, and that concept has never waivered throughout the years. Over the years, the practice continued to expand, with many new services being offered to patients. 

In treating a variety of conditions, our team of specialists stay up to date on the most up-to-date practices, including the use of advanced tools, equipment, and methods of treatment.Our physicians are dedicated to their profession and are actively involved in local medical associations and regularly participate in specialized otorhinolaryngology medical associations.

We offer many services at our clinics, including treatment for conditions as:

  • Allergy and sinus disorders
  • Ear and balance disorders
  • Hearing problems and hearing aid solutions
  • Facial and plastic surgery
  • Throat conditions
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic snoring

From infancy to seniors, the team at Houston Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy has been providing quality care to patients for more than 100 years, from medical care, patient education, and non-surgical as well as surgical treatment. 

As pediatric ENTs, we understand the urgency of seeing a physician, which is why we provide same-day and telemedicine appointments for many common pediatric illnesses, including ear, throat, and sinus infections. 

Schedule an appointment today with one of Houston’s most trusted and best ENT & Allergy Doctors by filling out our convenient online appointment form or calling 281-649-7000.


Kathleen Rose McDonald, MD