It’s official: chronic ear infection

The face of a sick Thane
The face of a sick Thane

My dominant impression of my youngest’s health is that he’s healthy as an ox. (Also, he weighs as much as an ox, but that’s a separate complaint.) I don’t think I’ve taken a sick day for him yet (knocks on wood). But each time I brought him in for his well-baby appointments after about 6 months, he’d fail the ear check (it seems). I’d go fill the prescription, dose him with Amox-Clav and not pay too much attention. He’d get really fussy. I’d bring him in. His ears would have fluid. We’d recheck. His ears would have fluid.

But this never has seemed to BOTHER him much. Even Thane fussy is a sweet, fun little kid.

But. But but.

The 102.8 on Christmas Eve was a scary high fever, especially since I wasn’t sure of the direction. He stayed hot all through Christmas, before slowly cooling off. And then the crying jags. For 20 minutes he’d scream and writhe and scream and scream and scream. It was horrible. I’d be about ready to scream too. And then he’d notice his favorite toy: a milk jug. Or he’d just suddenly settle. (Of course, many of the screaming jags were punctuated by a dose of Tylenol, which let’s just all admit here and now, Tylenol is a wonder drug.) And he’d pull his ear.

By Christmas, I was pretty sure what was up. Two days after finishing antibiotics for an ear infection which had already drawn the “if this doesn’t clear this up I’m calling it chronic” warning from our pediatrician? No other symptoms? Ear pulling? It didn’t take a genius to figure this one out.

I begged the on call pediatrician for anesthetic eardrops, and waited nearly an hour in Walgreens while they attempted to figure out how to get them to me. And this morning bright and early Thane and his father went to see his doctor to verify our suspicions.

Thane is now on his last-ditch antibiotics and we’re supposed to be lining up surgery for him for ear tubes. Surgery. As in “general anesthetic” and “fasting”. For my baby. Oof.

So, in my role as “mom” I’m spending today fretting. Examples of my frets include:

  • Is my son’s hearing and verbal development compromised by his constant ear infections? Is THIS why he refuses to say nose? (I doubt it. Did I mention he said “Duck” and “Quack quack” yesterday? And that when I asked him what a duck said, he said “Quack quack”? But only when I can hear him.)
  • Seriously, surgery?
  • Doesn’t this mean he’ll have to wear ear plugs whenever he goes swimming?
  • And general anesthetic?
  • What sort of problems will we encounter due to the sheer volume of Amox-Clav the child has consumed? (He loves it!)
  • Has my son been hurting for months and I’ve done too little to help, lulled by his general good nature?
  • And how cool is it that Mass Eye and Ear is a very short walk from my house?
  • Answer: Cool. But surgery is uncool.
  • Oh, my sweet Thane. I’m sorry you spent your second Christmas hurting. I’m sorry that you might have to have surgery. I’m sorry, kiddo. I hope that in future years you’re shocked to learn this was ever an issue.

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    Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

    5 thoughts on “It’s official: chronic ear infection”

    1. Aww, poor little guy 😦 That sucks. Poor baby.

      Earplugs while swimming aren’t so bad – I wore them through college, thanks to chronic ear infections (I VERY narrowly missed getting tubes) – even as a wee kid I apparently didn’t mind them. Grammy always got me the sorta mold-able wax kind that felt like Silly Putty and they’re pretty comfy.

      The sheer volume of Amox-Clav might lead to him becoming resistant to it, but if he stays off it for awhile, that should wear off. I was resistant to amox for _years_ but can use it now.

      Poor baby. I’m sorry you need to worry about this now.


    2. My experience with Boo’s Tube Surgery:

      1. I wish we had done it earlier. Seriously. Second best thing we ever did for his health (after the asthma diagnosis) and best thing we ever did for his language development. And walking. He walked less than a week after the surgery. I could KICK myself for not being more on top of this and getting it done sooner. It doesn’t sound like Thane has suffered to the same extent, but still, it’s a really good thing to not be constantly on drugs for fluid-filled ears. Just so you know, we went through THREE ROUNDS of the three different antibiotics (including the shots of the heavy-hitter) before we got the surgery. Again, I could kick myself.

      2. It was way more of an issue for me than for him. Just schedule the surgery first thing in the morning and the fasting isn’t as big a deal. For Boo it was a somewhat cranky early morning of being hungry, but having cool things to look at and new toys to play with and then the surgery and then afterward he was a bit groggy but by lunch-time he was back to normal. Seriously.

      3. The surgery takes less than 10 minutes. I went back into the surgery room with them, and held him while they gave him the anesthetic, so I was holding him when he dropped off. You may or may not be able to do this or want to do this. I, of course, took a picture. I had barely had time to get back to the waiting room and the phone rang telling the attendant that Boo was out of surgery and would be wheeled by shortly and we could follow him to the recovery room. He was already waking up. They get just a tiny, tiny bit of the anesthetic and it starts wearing off quickly. In the recovery room he went from very groggy to very awake and bored over the course of the hour or so they kept us there.

      4. Ear Plugs – our surgeon does not have the kids wear earplugs for baths or swimming unless they are regularly diving to the bottom of the deep end of a pool. Other than that excessive pressure, not much water is going to get into the ear, and the tubes are there to drain it back out again, so who cares? That was his opinion. We never used ear plugs with Boo.

      5. After the tubes fall out (between six and 18 months) the holes close up (almost always) and the ear is exactly as it was before the tubes were put in. Hopefully by the time this happens Thane’s face will have elongated, and his own ear tubes will be doing the job of draining fluid and he won’t need them replaced. Some kids do though, and the surgery is apparently similar the second time.

      The best part? Boo didn’t have another ear infection. Still hasn’t and it’s been two years.


    3. I second what redbird423 wrote. No earplugs. We’ve done it twice with D. now and I’m happy to discuss more at your leisure…


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