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Top 10 Reasons Children Need to See An ENT Doctor

November 22nd, 2022 | 5 min. read

By Sanjeev J. Shah, MD

Nearly 27 million people make the trip to visit an ENT doctor each year, often after receiving a referral from their primary care provider for more specialized evaluation, testing, and treatment. Hearing that your child needs to see a specialist can be scary but an ear, nose, and throat physician can treat routine, non-life-threatening conditions as well as serious medical emergencies to help your child live a better life.

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What is an ENT doctor?

An ENT doctor is a specialist that focuses on evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and preventing conditions related to the ears, nose, and throat. These doctors treat a variety of conditions from allergies and sinus infections to breathing or sleep disorders. 

There are many reasons to see an ENT doctor for children, including the top 10 reasons below.

1) Recurrent Middle ear infections

Recurrent middle ear infections (otitis media) is one of the most common reasons your child needs to see an ENT doctor. Middle ear infections are often seen in children under 5 years old as the Eustachian tubes are not fully formed making it difficult for fluid to adequately drain and making the ear more susceptible to infection.

How are Recurrent ear infections treated?

The first line of defense against an ear infection is oral antibiotics. Antibiotics work to destroy the bacteria causing the infection allowing the ear to heal, however, recurrent ear infections may require more specialized treatment. In children with recurrent ear infections, a hollow cylindrical tube is can be placed within the eardrum to provide a direct path for fluid to drain and the middle ear space to stay well ventilated. Doctors will refer children to an ENT doctor if they experience at least 3 ear infections within 6 months or 4 infections with a year.


2) External ear infections

External ear infections (otitis externa) can be caused by use of q-tips, use of other objects to clean the ears, or water exposure to the ears from swimming or bathing. If these infections are happening often, it may be helpful to see an ENT doctor.

How are External ear infections treated?

External ear infections are often able to be treated with the use of antibiotic ear drops. Preventative measures such as keeping the ears dry and not using any q-tips or other objects to clean the ears are important. Severe or frequent infections may require further evaluation and treatment.


3) Chronic throat infections

Tonsillitis and strep throat are two of the most frequently seen throat infections among children. These infections may lead to pain, difficulty swallowing, and irritability. Strep throat is quickly spread throughout daycare centers and schools as it is a highly contagious infection spread through respiratory droplets. Children who experience frequent throat infections may require a referral to an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

How are chronic throat infections treated?

Typically strep throat is treated with antibiotics, however, frequent throat infections may require surgical intervention. The tonsils and adenoids are found in the back of the throat and are designed to reduce the number of bacteria entering the body. Though the tonsils work well for most, they may acquire more bacteria than they can handle. More than 500,000 children have their tonsils removed each year to reduce the frequency and severity of infections.


4) Recurrent sinus infections

The sinus cavities are sensitive areas of the body easily irritated by common allergens like dust, pollen, and pet dander. When the sinuses become irritated, they begin to swell, blocking the pathway for mucus to drain. This obstruction can make breathing through the nose difficult, cause pressure around the eyes, and result in discolored nasal drainage.

How are recurrent sinus infections treated?

Sinusitis that does not respond to traditional treatment of over-the-counter or prescription medication or lasts longer than 3 months warrants a referral to an ENT. Chronic sinus infections may be contributed to by nasal polyps, allergies, or a deviated septum. Endoscopic surgery may be used to correct these anatomical issues, thus allowing for optimal airflow and less frequent infections.


5) Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, also known as seasonal allergies or hay fever, is the body’s response to an allergen that results in itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and nasal congestion. Common allergens that cause allergic rhinitis are dust mites, pollen, and pet dander.

How is allergic rhinitis treated?

Allergic rhinitis may occur year-round or be seasonally caused by pollen or other allergens present at a certain time of year. For a doctor to diagnose allergic rhinitis, a diligent past medical history must be obtained in addition to a physical examination of the nasal passages. Allergy testing is often helpful to identify the source of the symptoms. Treatment includes the use of nasal sprays, antihistamines, bronchodilators, or allergy immunotherapy (often referred to as allergy shots) which are designed to desensitize the body by injecting small doses of an allergen into the body regularly.


6) Snoring or obstructive sleep apnea

Snoring results from a narrowing in the upper airway during sleep that limits the flow of air. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs as a result of a complete blockage in the airway resulting in periodic pausing of breathing. In children, sleep-disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea can result in poor sleep quality, frequent waking throughout the night, frequent bed wetting, growth/developmental problems, and behavioral issues. Children who persistently snore, snort, or gasp throughout the night may need to see an ENT for further evaluation.

How is sleep-disordered breathing treated?

Sleep-disordered breathing requires a medical diagnosis for treatment. A doctor will assess your child and may order a sleep study to get first-hand knowledge of your child’s sleep patterns. For adults, a doctor will often prescribe continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. However, many children experience improvement or resolution of this condition by having their tonsils and adenoids removed to prevent obstruction.


7) Nasal congestion

Nasal congestion often occurs with viral infections (i.e. flu, Covid-19, or the "common cold"), allergies, enlarged adenoids, or sinus infections. Obstructed nasal passages are caused by irritants affecting the mucous membranes of the nose, leading to increased mucus and inflamed nasal tissues.

How is nasal congestion treated?

Most cases of nasal congestion can be treated at home as recommended by your doctor, but if nasal congestion persists, it may be warranted to see an ENT doctor to determine if another underlying issue may be the cause.


8) Hearing loss or speech delay

2 to 3 out of 1,000 children experience some form of hearing losswhether it be from a congenital defect, autism, persistent ear infections, or other external exposures like loud noises. When hearing is impacted, it can affect a child’s ability to form words, leaving them to potentially suffer from speech delay.

How is hearing loss treated?

An ENT doctor will work closely with your child to determine the cause and severity of hearing loss as well as the best course of action to evaluate and treat hearing loss.


9) Foreign bodies

Young children are curious, especially when it comes to seeing where small objects can be placed. Children often put small objects into their noses or ears without their parent's knowledge. When an object is left in the nose or ears, it can lead to pain, infection, or other issues.

How are foreign bodies removed?

A foreign object in the nose or ear can be evaluated and removed by an ENT doctor, often in the office setting, but sometimes in the operating room if required.


10) Epistaxis (Nose bleeds)

A nosebleed can occur for many reasons. Many nosebleeds stop by themselves or can be stopped with pressure applied to the nose. However, recurrent or persistent bleeding may require an evaluation by an ENT doctor. The nose can be examined, sometimes with the use of a pediatric size fiberoptic endoscope in the office, to determine the source of the bleeding. 

How are nose bleeds treated?

While many nose bleeds can be treated conservatively, sometimes, further treatment such as cauterization of the source of the bleed may be needed. Your ENT doctor can evaluate the source of your child's nosebleed and advise you on the appropriate treatment.


Treating ear, nose, and throat conditions for your child in Houston

Are you looking for an ENT doctor for your child? At Houston ENT and Allergy Services, we have been treating conditions affecting these parts of the body for decades. Our doctors use the latest technology and modern advances in procedural techniques to ensure the best results are achieved with minimal risk of complications. At Houston ENT, we understand the urgent medical concerns you may have, which is why we offer same or next-day appointments. Call to schedule today at one of our locations

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Sanjeev J. Shah, MD