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PEDIATRIC

CHILDS HEARING LOSS

Your child with a hearing loss can succeed - in school, in work, and in life! It is important to keep this as your focus, whatever your child's age or degree of hearing loss. While you will have the support of many professionals, ultimately you as parents will make many decisions about what is in the best interest of your child. As with all children, there is no magic formula for raising a child with a hearing loss. It helps to maintain a positive attitude, educate yourself about hearing loss, seek out the best resources, and take an active role in your child's education. Most of all, keep in mind that your child is a child first, and a child with a hearing loss second.

This online booklet is written for parents of children of all ages and all degrees of hearing loss. With so much to cover, the information presented here is only a brief overview, supplemented with a variety of reference and resource materials so you can follow up on subjects more thoroughly. In addition, you are encouraged to join the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for access to a huge variety of resources, including educational programs for you and your child, a large inventory of books and other publications, video tapes, conferences, and a national support network.

Will your child have a "normal" life? While some mild-moderate losses can be surgically or medically corrected, most hearing loss is a permanent condition. Thus, your child's life will have its challenges. However, these challenges sometimes turn into advantages. For example, the ability to work hard and concentrate more, coupled with the routines of audiologic and language therapy, frequently produces children who are self-disciplined and focused. Moreover, the outcomes for children with hearing loss have greatly improved in the last two decades due to major advances in technology and emphasis on programs of early detection and early intervention.

Emotional Impact of the Diagnosis: Parents can benefit from counseling and support after the diagnosis of hearing loss. Grief, anger, fear and denial are natural responses for hearing parents to feel when they find out their child has a hearing loss. Their expected "normal" child has a problem and this problem is going to present many challenges. We convey love through our words and tone of voice as well as through hugs and kisses. We soothe a child through the sound of our voice, or by singing a lullaby. We teach children that the objects in their room, their toys, their food, and the people around them all have names. We show children how to pronounce words by our example. We discipline and warn children of danger through words as well as actions. How are we going to do this now?

Deaf parents of deaf children are not necessarily prone to grief because they are already familiar with living in a world without sound. Deaf parents may feel more comfortable with a child who is deaf, because this seems natural. But this isn't the case for most hearing parents, who probably know little or nothing about hearing loss and who may never have known a child with a hearing loss. Many deaf parents will teach their child sign language as naturally as hearing parents unconsciously teach their child to speak. But hearing parents must commit themselves to the goal of helping their child listen and speak in order to participate fully in a hearing world, or the equally arduous task of becoming fluent in sign language and learning about Deaf culture.

Grief is a common emotion and an honest expression of disappointment and fear of the unknown. Grief that is not acknowledged or dealt with can lead to denial of a child's problem, which in turn can lead to procrastination in taking constructive action. Unacknowledged grief can lead to unfocused and displaced anger on the part of parents which can last a lifetime. Acknowledging grief, painful as it may be, will clear away anger and denial, allowing parents to most effectively nurture their child.

 

CHILD TINNITUS

Tinnitus is a condition where the patient experiences ringing or other head noises that are not produced by an external source. This disorder can occur in one or both ears, range in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and may be continuous or sporadic. This often debilitating condition has been linked to ear injuries, circulatory system problems, noise-induced hearing loss, wax build-up in the ear canal, medications harmful to the ear, ear or sinus infections, misaligned jaw joints, head and neck trauma, Ménière's disease, and an abnormal growth of bone of the middle ear. In rare cases, slow-growing tumors on auditory, vestibular, or facial nerves can cause tinnitus as well as deafness, facial paralysis, and balance problems. The American Tinnitus Association estimates that more than 50 million Americans have tinnitus problems to some degree, with approximately 12 million people have symptoms severe enough to seek medical care.

This condition is not uncommon in the pediatric population. Although tinnitus in children is as common as in the adult population, children generally do not complain spontaneously of having tinnitus. Researchers believe that the child with tinnitus considers the noise in the ear to be a normal event, as it has usually been present for a long period of time. A second explanation of this discrepancy lies in the fact that the child may not distinguish between the psychological impact of the tinnitus and its medical significance.

Continuous tinnitus can be annoying and distracting, and in severe cases it can cause psychological distress and interfere with your child's ability to lead a normal life. The good news is that most children with tinnitus seem to eventually outgrow the symptom. It is unusual to see a child carry the problem into adulthood.

 

If you think your child has tinnitus:

You should first arrange an appointment with your family physician or pediatrician. If the child does not have a specific problem with the ears such as middle ear inflammation with thick discharge then it may be necessary to have your child referred to an otolaryngologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist.

 

What treatment your child may be offered.

Most people, including children, who are diagnosed with tinnitus find that there is no specific problem underlying their tinnitus. Consequently, there is no specific medicine or operation to 'cure' tinnitus. However, experts suggest that the following steps be taken with the child diagnosed with tinnitus:

(1) Reassure the child: Explain that this condition is common and they are not alone. Ask your physician to describe the condition to the child in terms and images that they can understand.

(2) Explain that he/she may feel less distressed by their tinnitus in the future: Many children find it helpful to have their tinnitus explained carefully to them and to know about ways to manage it. This is partly due to a medical concept known as "neural plasticity,"resulting in children's brains being more able to change their response to all kinds of stimulation. If it is carefully managed, childhood tinnitus may not be a serious problem.

(3) Use sound generators or provide background noise: Sound therapy has been used to treat adults with tinnitus for some time, and can also be used with children. Sound therapy aims to make tinnitus less noticeable. If tinnitus occurs on a regular basis, then the child's nervous system can, with soundtherapy, adapt to the condition. The sound can be environmental, such as a fan or quiet background music.

(4) Have hearing-impaired children wear hearing aids: A child with tinnitus and a hearing loss may find that hearing aids can help improve the tinnitus. Hearing aids do this by picking up sounds your child may not normally hear, which in turn will help their brain filter out their tinnitus. It may also help them by taking the strain out of listening. Straining to hear can make your child's brain focus on the tinnitus noises.

(5) Helping your child to sleep with debilitating tinnitus: Severe tinnitus may lead to sleep difficulties for the young patient. Ask your otolaryngologist the best strategy to adopt when the child cannot sleep.

Finally, help your child to relax. Some children believe their tinnitus gets worse when they are under stress. Discuss appropriate stress relieving techniques with your pediatrician or family physician.

 

PEDIATRIC SINUSITIS

Your child's sinuses are not fully developed until age 20. Although small, the maxillary (behind the cheek) and ethmoid (between the eyes) sinuses are present at birth. Unlike in adults, pediatric sinusitis is difficult to diagnose because symptoms can be subtle and the causes complex.

 

How Do I Know When My Child Has Sinusitis?

The following symptoms may indicate a sinus infection in your child:

  • a "cold" lasting more than 10 to 14 days, sometimes with a low-grade fever

  • thick yellow-green nasal drainage

  • post-nasal drip, sometimes leading to or exhibited as sore throat, cough, bad breath, nausea and/or vomiting

  • headache, usually in children age six or older

  • irritability or fatigue

  • swelling around the eyes

Young children have immature immune systems and are more prone to infections of the nose, sinus, and ears, especially in the first several years of life. These are most frequently caused by viral infections (colds), and they may be aggravated by allergies. However, when your child remains ill beyond the usual week to ten days, a serious sinus infection is likely.

You can reduce the risk of sinus infections for your child by reducing exposure to known environmental allergies and pollutants such as tobacco smoke, reducing his/her time at day care, and treating stomach acid reflux disease.

 

How Will the Doctor Treat Sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis: Most children respond very well to antibiotic therapy. Nasal decongestants or topical nasal sprays may also be prescribed for short-term relief of stuffiness. Nasal saline (saltwater) drops or gentle spray can be helpful in thinning secretions and improving mucous membrane function.

If your child has acute sinusitis, symptoms should improve within the first few days. Even if your child improves dramatically within the first week of treatment, it is important that you continue therapy until all the antibiotics have been taken. Your doctor may decide to treat your child with additional medicines if he/she has allergies or other conditions that make the sinus infection worse.

Chronic sinusitis: If your child suffers from one or more symptoms of sinusitis for at least twelve weeks, he or she may have chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis or recurrent episodes of acute sinusitis numbering more than four to six per year, are indications that you should seek consultation with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. The ENT may recommend medical or surgical treatment of the sinuses.

Diagnosis of sinusitis: If your child sees an ENT specialist, the doctor will examine his/her ears, nose, and throat. A thorough history and examination usually leads to the correct diagnosis. Occasionally, special instruments will be used to look into the nose during the office visit. An x-ray called a CT scan may help to determine how your child's sinuses are formed, where the blockage has occurred, and the reliability of a sinusitis diagnosis.

 

When Is Surgery Necessary For Sinusitis?

Surgery is considered for the small percentage of children with severe or persistent sinusitis symptoms despite medical therapy. Using an instrument called an endoscope, the ENT surgeon opens the natural drainage pathways of your child's sinuses and makes the narrow passages wider. This also allows for culturing so that antibiotics can be directed specifically against your child's sinus infection. Opening up the sinuses and allowing air to circulate usually results in a reduction in the number and severity of sinus infections.

Also, your doctor may advise removing adenoid tissue from behind the nose as part of the treatment for sinusitis. Although the adenoid tissue does not directly block the sinuses, infection of the adenoid tissue, called adenoiditis, or obstruction of the back of the nose, can cause many of the symptoms that are similar to sinusitis, namely, runny nose, stuffy nose, post-nasal drip, bad breath, cough, and headache.

 

Summary

Sinusitis in children is different than sinusitis in adults. Children more often demonstrate a cough, bad breath, crankiness, low energy, and swelling around the eyes along with a thick yellow-green nasal or post-nasal drip. Once the diagnosis of sinusitis has been made, children are successfully treated with antibiotic therapy in most cases. If medical therapy fails, surgical therapy can be used as a safe and effective method of treating sinus disease in children.

 

PEDIATRIC FOOD ALLERGIES

Dust, mites, pet dander, and ragweed are not the only allergic threats to your child. Food allergies and sensitivities may cause a wide range of adverse reactions to the skin, respiratory system, stomach, and other physiological functions of the body.

Determining what foods are the cause of an allergic reaction is key to treatment. Before you identify the culinary culprit you must consider what type of food allergy your child has. There are two types of food allergies. They are classified as:

  • Fixed food allergies: A fixed food allergy may be very apparent, such as the child whose lips swell and throat itches immediately in response to eating peanuts. The cause for this type of food allergy is similar to that of inhalant allergies, so the diagnosis is more easily reached. Blood testing (i.e., RAST test) is typically used to verify fixed food allergies. Approximately five to 15 percent of food allergies are of the fixed variety.

  • Cyclic food allergies: These allergies are far more common but less understood. Delayed food allergy symptoms can take up to three days to appear. This type of reaction is associated with the body's immunoglobin G (IgG) or antibodies. Unlike fixed food allergies, this allergic response is cyclical in nature. As an example, a child may be IgG sensitive to milk. Consequently, symptoms might appear if the child increases the intake and/or frequency of milk consumption.

Both children and adults are susceptible to food allergies. The bad news for children is that they often have more skin reactions to foods, such as eczema, than do adults. But the good news for the young patient is that a child often outgrows his or her food sensitivities, even those that are positive on a RAST test, over time. Food allergies may fade, and then inhalant (e.g, dust, ragweed) allergies may begin to manifest.

 

Diagnosing and treating the cyclic food allergy

If your child is experiencing allergic reactions to food of unknown origin, you should ask yourself, "Are there any foods that my child craves or any food that I avoid offering?" These foods may be the ones that are causing difficulties for the young patient.

 

Your physician may also suggest the Elimination and Challenge Diet. This dietary test consists of the following steps:

1. Keep a detailed food diary tracking what was eaten (including ingredients), when it was eaten, medications taken, and any symptoms which developed. Be honest! Some well-meaning parents or caregivers often create a food diary to look healthier than it typically is. Your child can receive the best diagnosis if the diet records are accurate, timed precisely, and truthful. The diet diary can be evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat specialist to identify one or several food items that may be the culprits.

 

2. Conduct an unblinded elimination and challenge diet at home based upon your physician's assessment of your child's diet diary. It is best if you carefully maintain a new diet diary for your child during the period of elimination and challenge. During this elimination and challenge diet, your child must abstain from one, and only one, of the possible food culprits at a time for a period of four days. This can be difficult to carry out if the food is very common, such eggs or cereal, so you need to pay strict attention to your child's diet during the elimination phase. Any "cheating" will invalidate the results.

 

3. On the fifth day, you will be asked to feed your child the suspected culprit food item. This is the challenge! Provide your child an average-sized portion of the food in question to be eaten in five minutes. In one hour the child should eat another 1/2 portion if no symptoms have developed. Any symptoms that develop are then timed and recorded. With a true cyclic food allergy, you would expect a significant worsening of the symptoms described in the original diet diary, although the challenge symptoms may vary as well. Fixed food allergies should never be deliberately challenged unless under the direct supervision of a physician. For minor, moderate discomfort from the testing, the patient may take: 1) a child's laxative to decrease the transit time through the digestive system, 2) Alka Seltzer Gold, 3) Buffered Vitamin C (one gram).

If the Elimination and Challenge Diet confirms a cyclic food allergy, then you will be asked to abstain from feeding your child this food for a period of three to six months. After this time you can slowly reintroduce the food on a rotary basis; it is not to be eaten more frequently than every four days (once or twice a week).

 

ALLERGIC RHINITIS (HAY FEVER)

Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is an especially common chronic nasal problem in adolescents and young adults. Allergies to inhalants like pollen, dust, and animal dander begin to cause sinus and nasal symptoms in early childhood. Infants and young children are especially susceptible to allergic sensitivity to foods and indoor allergens.

 

What causes allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis typically results from two conditions: family history/genetic predisposition to allergic disease and exposure to allergens. Allergens are substances that produce an allergic response.

Children are not born with allergies but develop symptoms upon repeated exposure to environmental allergens. The earliest exposure is through food—and infants may develop eczema, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, and wheezing caused by one or more allergens (milk protein is the most common). Allergies can also contribute to repeated ear infections in children. In early childhood, indoor exposure to dust mites, animal dander, and mold spores may cause an allergic reaction, often lasting throughout the year. Outdoor allergens including pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds primarily cause seasonal symptoms.

The number of patients with allergic rhinitis has increased in the past decade, especially in urban areas. Before adolescence, twice as many boys as girls are affected; however, after adolescence, females are slightly more affected than males. Researchers have found that children born to a large family with several older siblings and day care attendance seem to have less likelihood of developing allergic disease later in life.

 

What are allergic rhinitis symptoms?

Symptoms can vary with the season and type of allergen and include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes and nose. A year-long exposure usually produces nasal congestion (chronic stuffy nose).

In children, allergen exposure and subsequent inflammation in the upper respiratory system cause nasal obstruction. This obstruction becomes worse with the gradual enlargement of the adenoid tissue and the tonsils inherent with age. Consequently, the young patient may have mouth-breathing, snoring, and sleep-disordered breathing such as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep problems such as insomnia, bed-wetting, and sleepwalking may accompany these symptoms along with behavioral changes including short attention span, irritability, poor school performance, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

In these patients, upper respiratory infections such as colds and ear infections are more frequent and last longer. A child’s symptoms after exposure to pollutants such as tobacco smoke are usually amplified in the presence of ongoing allergic inflammation.

 

When should my child see a doctor?

If your child’s cold-like symptoms (sneezing and runny nose) persist for more than two weeks, it is appropriate to contact a physician.

Emergency treatment is rarely necessary except for upper airway obstruction causing severe sleep apnea or an anaphylactic reaction caused by exposure to a food allergen. Treatment of anaphylactic shock should be immediate and requires continued observation and care.

 

What happens during a physician visit?

The doctor will first obtain an extensive history about the child, the home environment, possible exposures, and progression of symptoms. Family history of atopic/allergic disease and the presence of other disorders such as eczema and asthma strongly support the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis. The physician will seek a link between the symptoms and exposure to certain allergens.

The physician will examine the skin, eyes, face and facial structures, ears, nose, and throat. In some cases, a nasal endoscopy may be performed. If the history and the physical exam suggest allergic rhinitis, a screening allergy test is ordered. This can be a blood test or a skin prick test. In most children it is easier to obtain a blood test known as the RadioAllergoSorbent Test or RAST. This test measures the amount of specific Immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) in the blood responding to various environmental and food allergens.

The skin test results, often immediately available, may be affected by the recent use of antihistamines and other medications, dermatologic conditions, and age of the patient. The blood test is not affected by medication, and results are usually available in several days.

 

How is allergic rhinitis treated?

The most common treatment recommendation is to have the child avoid the allergens causing the allergic sensitivity. The physician will work with caregivers to develop an avoidance strategy based on the nature of the allergen, exposure, and availability of avoidance measures.

Cost and lifestyle are important factors to consider. For mild, seasonal allergies, avoidance could be the most effective course of action. If pet dander is the offender, consideration should be given to removing the pet from the child’s environment.

Severe symptoms, multiple allergens, year-long exposure, and limited resources for environmental control may call for additional treatment measures. Nasal saline irrigations, nasal steroid sprays, and non-sedating antihistamines are indicated for symptom control. Nasal steroids are the most effective in reducing nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis. A short burst of oral steroids may be appropriate for some patients with severe symptoms or to gain control during acute attacks.

If symptoms are severe and due to multiple allergens, the child is symptomatic more than six months in a year, and if all other measures fail, then immunotherapy (IT) (or desensitization) may be suggested. IT is delivered by injections of the allergen in doses that are increased incrementally to a maximum that is tolerated without a reaction. Maintenance injections can be delivered at increasing intervals starting from weekly to bi-weekly to monthly injections for up to three to five years. Children with pollen sensitivities benefit most from this treatment. IT is also effective in reducing the onset of pollen-induced asthma.

 

CHILD SCREENING

Why Is Early Childhood Hearing Screening Important For Your Child?

Approximately two to four of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of-hearing, making hearing loss the most common birth disorder. Many studies have shown that early diagnosis of hearing loss is crucial to the development of speech, language, cognitive, and psychosocial abilities. Treatment is most successful if hearing loss is identified early, preferably within the first month of life. Still, one in every four children born with serious hearing loss does not receive a diagnosis until age three or older.

When Should A Child's Hearing Be Tested?

The first opportunity to test a child's hearing is in the hospital shortly after birth. If your child's hearing is not screened before leaving the hospital, it is recommended that screening be done within the first month of life. Should test results indicate a possible hearing loss, seek further evaluation as soon as possible; preferably within the first three to six months of life.

 

Is Early Hearing Screening Mandatory?

In recent years, health organizations across the country, including the AmericanAcademy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, have worked to highlight the importance of screening all newborns for hearing loss. These efforts are working. In 2003, more than 85 percent of all newborns in the United States were screened for hearing loss. In fact, some 39 states have passed legislation requiring some form of hearing screening of newborns before they leave the hospital. This still leaves more than a million babies who are not screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital.

 

How Is Screening Done?

Two tests are used to screen infants and newborns for hearing loss. They are:

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) involves placement of a sponge earphone in the ear canal to measure whether the ear can respond properly to sound. In normal-hearing children, a measurable "echo" should be produced when sound is emitted through the earphone. If no echo is measured, it could indicate a hearing loss.

Auditory brain stem response (ABR) is a more complex test. Earphones are placed on the ears and electrodes are placed on the head and ears. Sound is emitted through the earphones while the electrodes measure how your child's brain responds to the sound.

If either test indicates a potential hearing loss, your physician may suggest a follow-up evaluation by an otolaryngologist.

Signs Of Hearing Loss In Children

Hearing loss can also occur later childhood, after a newborn leaves the hospital. In these cases, parents, grandparents, and other caregivers are often the first to notice that something may be wrong with a young child's hearing. Even if your child's hearing was tested as a newborn, you should continue to watch for signs of hearing loss including:

  • Not reacting in any way to unexpected loud noises,

  • Not being awakened by loud noises,

  • Not turning his/her head in the direction of your voice,

  • Not being able to follow or understand directions,

  • Poor language development, or

  • Speaking loudly or not using age-appropriate language skills.

If your child exhibits any of these signs, report them to your doctor.

 

What Happens If My Child Has A Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss in children can be temporary or permanent. It is important to have hearing loss evaluated by a physician who can rule out medical problems that may be causing the hearing loss, such as otitis media (ear infection), excessive earwax congenital malformations, or a genetic hearing loss.

 

If it is determined that your child's hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids may be recommended to amplify the sound reaching your child's ear. Ear surgery may be able to restore or significantly improve hearing in some instances. For those with certain types of profound hearing loss who do not benefit sufficiently from hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be considered. Unlike a hearing aid, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve and allows the child to hear louder and clearer sound.

 

You will need to decide whether or not your deaf child will communicate primarily with oral speech and/or sign language, and seek early intervention to prevent language delays. Research indicates that habilitation of hearing loss by age six months will prevent subsequent language delays. Other communication strategies such as auditory verbal therapy, lip reading, and cued speech may also be used in conjunction with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, or independently.

 

PEDIATRIC GERD

Everyone has gastroesophageal reflux (GER), the backward movement (reflux) of gastric contents into the esophagus. Extraesophageal Reflux (EER) is the reflux of gastric contents from the stomach into the esophagus with further extension into the throat and other upper aerodigestive regions. In infants, more than 50 percent of children three months or younger have at least one episode of regurgitation a day. This rate peaks at 67 percent at age four months. But an infant's improved neuromuscular control and the ability to sit up will lead to a spontaneous resolute ion of significant GER in more than half of infants by age ten months and four out of five at age 18 months.

Researchers have found that 10 percent of infants (younger than 12 months) with GER develop significant complications. The diseases associated with reflux are known collectively as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Physically, GERD occurs when a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus malfunctions. Normally, this muscle closes to keep acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus. The continuous entry of acid or refluxed materials into areas outside the stomach can result in significant injury to those areas. It is estimated that some five to eight percent of adolescent children have GERD.

 

What symptoms are displayed by a child with GERD?

GER and EER in children often cause relatively few symptoms until a problem exists (GERD). The most common initial symptom of GERD is heartburn. Heartburn is more common in adults, whereas children have a harder time describing this sensation. They usually will complain of a stomach ache or chest discomfort, particularly after meals.

More frequent or severe GER and EER can cause other problems in the stomach, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, lungs, sinuses, ears and even the teeth. Consequently, other typical symptoms could include crying/irritability, poor appetite/feeding and swallowing difficulties, failure to thrive/weight loss, regurgitation ("wet burps" or outright vomiting), stomach aches (dyspepsia), abdominal/chest pain (heartburn), sore throat, hoarseness, apnea, laryngeal and tracheal stenoses, asthma/wheezing, chronic sinusitis, ear infections/fluid, and dental caries. Effortless regurgitation is very suggestive of GER. However recurrent vomiting (which is not the same) does not necessarily mean a child has GER.

Unlike infants, the adolescent child will not necessarily resolve GERD on his or her own. Accordingly, if your child displays the typical symptoms of GERD, a visit to a pediatrician is warranted. However, in some circumstances, the disorder may cause significant ear, nose, and throat disorders. When this occurs, an evaluation by an otolaryngologist is recommended.

 

How is GERD diagnosed?

Most of the time, the physician can make a diagnosis by interviewing the caregiver and examining the child. There are occasions when testing is recommended. The tests that are most commonly used to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux include:

  • pH probe: A small wire with an acid sensor is placed through the nose down to the bottom of the esophagus. The sensor can detect when acid from the stomach is "refluxed" into the esophagus. This information is generally recorded on a computer. Usually, the sensor is left in place between 12 and 24 hours. At the conclusion of the test, the results will indicate how often the child "refluxes" acid into his or her esophagus and whether he or she has any symptoms when that occurs.

  • Barium swallow or upper GI series: The child is fed barium, a white, chalky, liquid. A video x-ray machine follows the barium through the upper intestinal tract and lets doctors see if there are any abnormal twists, kinks or narrowings of the upper intestinal tract.

  • Technetium gastric emptying study: The child is fed milk mixed with technetium, a very weakly radioactive chemical, and then the technetium is followed through the intestinal tract using a special camera. This test is helpful in determining whether some of the milk/technetium ends up in the lungs (aspiration). It may also be helpful in determining how long milk sits in the stomach.

  • Endoscopy with biopsies: This most comprehensive test involves the passing down of a flexible endoscope with lights and lenses through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. This allows the doctor to get a directly look at the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum and see if there is any irritation or inflammation present. In some children with gastroesophageal reflux, repeated exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid causes some inflammation (esophagitis). Endoscopy in children usually requires a general anesthetic.

Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy: A small lighted scope is placed in the nose and the pharynx to evaluate for inflammation.

 

What treatments for GERD are available?

Treatment of reflux in infants is intended to lessen symptoms, not to relieve the underlying problem, as this will often resolve on its own with time. A useful simple treatment is to thicken a baby's milk or formula with rice cereal, making it less likely to be refluxed.

Several steps can be taken to assist the older child with GERD:

  • Lifestyle changes: Raise the head of the child's bed about 30 degrees while they sleep and have the child eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large amounts of food at one sitting. Avoid having the child eat right before they go to bed or lie down; instead, let two or three hours pass. Try a walk or warm bath or even a few minutes on the toilet. Some researchers believe that certain lifestyle changes such as losing weight or dressing in loose clothing my assist in alleviating GERD. Even chewing sugarless gum may help.

  • Dietary changes: Avoid chocolate, carbonated drinks, caffeine, tomato products, peppermint, and other acidic foods as citrus juices. Fried foods and spicy foods are also known to aggravate symptoms. Pay attention to what your child eats and be alert for individual problems.

  • Medical Treatment: Most of the medications prescribed to treat GERD either break down or lessen intestinal gas, decrease or neutralize stomach acid, or improve intestinal coordination. Your physician will prescribe the most appropriate medication for your child.

  • Surgical Treatment: It is rare for children with GERD to require surgery. For the few children who do require surgery, the most commonly performed operation is called Nissen fundoplication. With this procedure, the top part of the stomach (the fundus) is wrapped around the bottom of the esophagus to create a collar. After the operation, every time the stomach contracts, the collar around the esophagus contracts preventing reflux.

 

PEDIATRIC THYROID CANCER

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the throat. It has two lobes separated in the middle by a strip of tissue (the isthmus). The thyroid itself secretes three main hormones: (1) Thyroxine contains iodine, needed for growth and metabolism; (2) Triiodothyronine, similar in function to Thyroxine, effects body size, tissues growth, and function: and (3) Calcitonin, which decreases the concentration of calcium in the blood and increases calcium in the bones. All three of these hormones have an important role in your child's growth.

Thyroid cancer is the third most common tumor malignancy in children. It occurs six times more often in females than males and shares several characteristics with adult thyroid cancer patients. Surgery is the preferred treatment for this cancer and although the procedure is often uncomplicated, one of the risks of thyroid surgery involves vocal cord paralysis. Consequently, an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon should be consulted.

 

Types of thyroid cancer in children:

Papillary: This form of thyroid cancer occurs in cells that produce thyroid hormones containing iodine. This type, the most common form of thyroid cancer in children, grows very slowly.

Follicular: This type of thyroid cancer also develops in cells that produce thyroid hormones containing iodine. The disease afflicts a slightly older age group and is less common in children. This type of thyroid cancer is more likely to spread to the neck via blood vessels causing the cancer to spread to other parts of the body, making the disease difficult to control.

Medullary: This rare form of thyroid cancer develops in cells that produce calcitonin, a hormone that does not contain iodine. This cancer tends to spread to other parts of the body and constitutes about 5-10 percent of all thyroid malignancies. Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) in the pediatric population is usually associated with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2), an inherited genetic form of the cancer.

Anaplastic: This is the fastest growing of the thyroid cancers, with extremely abnormal cells that grow and spread rapidly, especially locally in the head and neck region. This form of cancer usually is found in older patients.

 

Symptoms:

The symptoms of this disease vary. Your child may have a lump in the neck, continuous swollen lymph nodes, a tight or full feeling in the neck, and/or trouble with breathing or swallowing, hoarseness.

 

Diagnosis:

If any of these symptoms occur, consult your child's physician for a diagnosis. The diagnosis could consist of a head and neck examination to determine if unusual lumps are present; a blood test to indicate how the thyroid is functioning; a sonography, which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create an image of the thyroid gland; a radioactive iodine scan, which provides information about the thyroid shape and function, identifying areas in the thyroid that do no absorb iodine in the normal way; fine needle biopsy, removal for study of a small part of the tumor; and surgery, where a procedure known as a thyroid lobectomy, necessitates removal of the lobe of the thyroid gland that contains the tumor, for analysis.

 

Treatments for thyroid cancer:

If the tumor is found to be malignant then surgery is used to remove as much of the tumor as possible either by lobectomy or subtotal thyroidectomy (removal of at least one thyroid lobe and up to a near-total removal of the thyroid gland). If necessary, the otolaryngologist- head and neck surgeon may remove the entire thyroid, in a procedure called a total thyroidectomy. Surgery may be followed by radioactive iodine therapy which destroys cancer cells that are left after surgery and help prevent the disease from returning Thyroid hormone therapy may need to be administered throughout your child's life when he/she has had surgery to remove the thyroid followed by radioactive iodine treatment to replace normal hormones and slow the growth of cancer cells. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy, the treatment of disease by means of chemical substances or drugs, may be given. This therapy interferes with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells and shrink tumors. In general, treatment outcomes for this type of cancer in children tend to be excellent. The best outcome is achieved with teenage girls, papillary type cancer, and a tumor localized to the thyroid gland.

Source: National Cancer Institute "Populationbased Outcomes for Pediatric Thyroid Carcinoma," by Nina L. Shapiro MD, and Neil Bhattacharyya MD, Laryngoscope. 2005 Feb;115(2):337-40.

 

CHILD SLEEP APNEA

Sleep apnea is known to affect 1 to 3 percent of children, but because there may be many unreported cases, could actually affect more. Sleep apnea can affect your child's sleep and behavior and if left untreated can lead to more serious problems. Because sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, it is important to monitor your child for the symptoms and have a doctor see her if she exhibits any.

What is sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when breathing is disrupted during sleep. This occurs when the airway is blocked, resulting in choking that causes a slower heart rate and increased blood pressure, alerting your child's brain and causing him to wake up.

 

What are the symptoms?

The first sign that your child may have sleep apnea is loud snoring that occurs regularly. You may also notice behavioral changes. Due to a lack of sleep, he or she may be more cranky, have more or less energy, and have difficulty concentrating in school.

 

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

If you notice that your child has any of those symptoms, have him or her checked by an otolaryngologist- head and neck surgeon, who can use a sleep test to determine sleep apnea. For the test, electrodes are attached to the head to monitor brain waves, muscle tension, eye movement, breathing, and the level of oxygen in the blood. The test is not painful and can be performed in a sleep laboratory or at home.

Results can vary, so it is important to have the otolaryngologist determine whether your child needs treatment. Often, in mild cases, treatment will be delayed while you are asked to monitor your child and let the doctor know if the symptoms worsen. In severe cases, the doctor will determine the appropriate treatment.

 

What are the dangers if sleep apnea is left untreated?

Because sleep apnea can lead to more serious problems, it is important that it be properly treated. When left untreated, sleep apnea can cause:

  • snoring

  • sleep deprivation

  • increased bed wetting

  • slowed growth

  • attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • breathing difficulty

  • heart trouble

 

What causes sleep apnea?

In children, sleep apnea can occur for several physical reasons, including enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and abnormalities of the jaw bone and tongue. These factors cause the airway to be blocked, resulting in vibration of the tonsils, or snoring. Overweight children are at increased risk for sleep apnea. Of the 37 percent of children who are considered overweight, 25 percent of them likely have sleeping difficulties that may include sleep apnea. This is because extra fat around the neck and throat block the airway, making it difficult for these children to sleep soundly. Studies have shown that after three months of exercise, the number of children at risk for sleep apnea dropped by 50 percent.

 

How is sleep apnea treated?

Because enlarged tonsils and adenoids are a common cause of sleep apnea in children, routine treatment often involves an adenotonsillectomy, an operation to remove the tonsils and adenoids. This is a routine operation with a 90 percent success rate. Studies published in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (October 2005) and presented at the Academy's 2006 annual meeting in Toronto showed that when children with sleep apnea were tested one to five months after their surgery, they showed extreme improvement in their sleep and behavior, and that these improvements remained nearly a year and a half later.

 

PEDIATRIC EAR ACHES

To understand earaches you must first know about the Eustachian tube, a narrow channel connecting the inside of the ear to the back of the throat, just above the soft palate. The tube allows drainage -- preventing fluid in the middle ear from building up and bursting the thin ear drum. In a healthy ear, the fluid drains down the tube, assisted by tiny hair cells, and is swallowed.

The tube maintains middle ear pressure equal to the air outside the ear, enabling free eardrum movement. Normally, the tube is collapsed most of the time in order to protect the middle ear from the many germs residing in the nose and mouth. Infection occurs when the Eustachian tube fails to do its job. When the tube becomes partially blocked, fluid accumulates in the middle ear, trapping bacteria already present, which then multiply. Additionally, as the air in the middle ear space escapes into the bloodstream, a partial vacuum is formed that absorbs more bacteria from the nose and mouth into the ear.

 

Why do children have more ear infections than adults?

Children have Eustachian tubes that are shorter, more horizontal, and straighter than those of adults. These factors make the journey for the bacteria quick and relatively easy. A child's tube is also floppier, with a smaller opening that easily clogs.

Inflammation of the middle ear is known as "otitis media." When infection occurs, the condition is called "acute otitis media." Acute otitis media occurs when a cold, allergy or upper respiratory infection, and the presence of bacteria or viruses lead to the accumulation of pus and mucus behind the eardrum, blocking the Eustachian tube.

When fluid forms in the middle ear, the condition is known as "otitis media with effusion," which can occur with or without infection. This fluid can remain in the ear for weeks to many months. When infected fluid persists or repeatedly returns, this is sometimes called "chronic middle ear infection." If not treated, chronic ear infections have potentially serious consequences such as temporary or permanent hearing loss.

 

How are recurrent acute otitis media and otitis media with effusion treated?

Some child care advocates suggest doing nothing or administering antibiotics to treat the infection. More than 30 million prescriptions are written each year for ear infections, accounting for 25 percent of all antibiotics prescribed in the United States. However, antibiotics are not effective against viral ear infections (30 to 50 percent of such disorders), may cause uncomfortable side effects such as upset stomach, and can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Medical researchers believe that 25 percent of all pneumococcus strains, the most common bacterial cause of ear infections, are resistant to penicillin, and ten to 20 percent are resistant to amoxicillin.

 

Is surgery effective against recurrent otitis media and otitis media with effusion?

In some cases, surgery may be the only effective treatment for chronic ear infections. Some physicians recommend the use of laser myringotomy, using a laser to create a tiny hole in the eardrum. The treatment is done in the doctor's office using topical anesthesia (ear drops). Laser myringotomy works by providing several weeks of ventilation for the middle ear. Proponents suggest this can reduce the many courses of antibiotic treatment for severe ear infections and eliminates the need for surgical insertion of tubes with general anesthesia.

Before the procedure:

Prior to the procedure, the otolaryngologist will examine the patient for a description of the tympanic membrane (eardrum) and the middle ear space. An audiometry may be performed to assess patient hearing. A tympanometry will be performed that tests compliance of the tympanic membrane at various levels of air pressure. This test provides a measurement of the extent of middle ear effusion, Eustachian tube function, and otitis media.

The procedure: During the procedure, a small incision is made in the ear drum, the fluid is suctioned out, and a tube is placed. In young children, this is usually done under a light, general anesthesia; older patients may have the procedure performed under local anesthesia. There are over 50 different tube designs, all in different shapes, color, and composition. In general, smaller tubes stay in for a shorter duration, while large inner flanges hold the tube in place for a longer time. Some recent tubes have special surface coatings or treatments that may reduce the likelihood of infection.

After the procedure : Immediately after the procedure, the surgeon will examine the patient for persistent or profuse bleeding or discharge. After one month, the tube placement will be reviewed, and the patient's hearing may be tested. Later, the physician will assess the tube's effectiveness in alleviating the ear infection.

 

What is the most common surgical treatment for ear infections?

The most common surgical procedure administered to children under general anesthesia is myringotomy with insertion of tympanostomy tubes (TT). A tube is inserted in the middle ear to allow continuous drainage of fluid. The procedure is recommended for treatment of: chronic otitis media with effusion (lasting longer than three months), recurrent acute otitis media (more than three episodes in six months or more than four episodes in 12 months), severe acute otitis media, otitis media with effusion and a hearing loss greater than 30 dB, non-responsiveness to antibiotics, and impending mastoiditis or intra-cranial complication due to otitis media.

If the patient is age six or younger, it is recommended that tubes remain in place for up to two years. Most tubes will fall out without assistance. Otherwise, the specialist will determine when the tubes should be removed.

Your ENT physician will recommend the most effective treatment for your child's ear infection.