Pneumococcal Vaccination is Key to Protecting Cochlear Implant Patients

Cochlear implants bring sound to thousands of people with hearing loss worldwide. People with cochlear implants are at increased risk for pneumococcal meningitis. Despite CDC recommendations that all cochlear implant patients receive pneumococcal vaccination, many patients remain unvaccinated. The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), in coordination with the CDC and FDA, has begun a campaign to help raise awareness about the importance of pneumococcal vaccinations for all cochlear implant patients. Pneumococcal vaccination, the “Pneumo Shot”, is recommended by CDC for all patients who have, or will receive cochlear implants.

Brochure: Pneumococcal Vaccination for Cochlear Implant Patients

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

What You Should Know

  • Children with cochlear implants are more likely to get bacterial meningitis than children without cochlear implants. In addition, some children who are candidates for cochlear implants have inner ear anatomic abnormalities that may increase their risk for meningitis.
  • Because children with cochlear implants are at increased risk for pneumococcal meningitis, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that they receive pneumococcal vaccination on the same schedule that is recommended for other groups at increased risk for invasive pneumococcal disease. Recommendations for the timing and type of pneumococcal vaccination vary with age and vaccination history and should be discussed with a health care provider.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued pneumococcal vaccination recommendations for individuals with cochlear implants. These recommendations can be viewed in detail on the CDC website.
    • Children who have cochlear implants or are candidates for cochlear implants should receive PCV13. PCV13 is now recommended routinely for all infants and children (see Table 2 in the CDC March 12, 2010 MMWR issue located at the above website for the number of doses and dosing schedule).
    • Older children with cochlear implants (from age 2 years through age 5) should receive two doses of PCV13 if they have not received any doses of PCV7 or PCV13 previously. If they have already completed the four-dose PCV7 series, they should receive one dose of PCV13 through age 71 months.
    • Children 6 through 18 years of age with cochlear implants may receive a single dose of PCV13 regardless of whether they have previously received PCV7 or the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) (Pneumovax®).
    • In addition to receiving PCV13, children with cochlear implants should receive one dose of PPSV23 at age 2 years or older and after completing all recommended doses of PCV13.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued pneumococcal vaccination recommendations for adults with cochlear implants. These recommendations can be viewed in detail on the CDC website.
    • Adult patients (=19 yrs of age) who are candidates for a cochlear implant and those who have received a cochlear implant should be given a single dose of PCV13 followed by a PPSV23 at least 8 weeks later. A second dose of PPSV23 is recommended for those 65 years of age and older.
    • For those adults who previously have received 1 doses of PPSV23 should be given a PCV13 dose =1 year after the last PPSV23 dose was received. For those who require additional doses of PPSV23, the first such dose should be given no sooner than 8 weeks after PCV13 and at least 5 years after the most recent dose of PPSV23.
  • For both children and adults, the vaccination schedule should be completed at two weeks or more before surgery.

Additional Facts

  • According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as of April 2009, approximately 188,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants. In the United States, roughly 41,500 adults and 25,500 children have received them. In the U.S., there are 122 known reports of meningitis in patients who have received cochlear implants with 64% of these cases having occurred in children.
  • Meningitis is an infection of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. There are two main types of meningitis, viral and bacterial. Bacterial meningitis is the more serious type and the type that has been reported in individuals with cochlear implants. The symptoms, treatment and outcomes may differ, depending on the cause of the meningitis.
  • The vaccines available in the United States that protect against most bacteria that cause meningitis are:
    • 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13) (Prevnar 13®)
    • 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV) (Pneumovax®)
    • Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate (Hib)
    • Tetravalent (A, C, Y, W-135) meningococcal conjugate (Menactra® and Menveo®)
    • Tetravalent (A, C, Y, W-135) meningococcal polysaccharide (Menomune®)
  • Meningitis in individuals with cochlear implants is most commonly caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). Children with cochlear implants are more likely to get pneumococcal meningitis than children without cochlear implants.
  • There is no evidence that children with cochlear implants are more likely to get meningococcal meningitis, caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides, than children without cochlear implants. Health care providers should follow the CDC immunization guidelines for routine meningococcal vaccination.
  • The Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine is not routinely recommended for those 5 years of age or older, since most older children and adults are already immune to Hib. Available information does not suggest that older children and adults with cochlear implants require the Hib vaccine. However, the Hib vaccine can be given to older children and adults who have never received it. Children less than age 5 should receive the Hib vaccine as a routine protection, according to the CDC guidelines for childhood immunizations. Most children born after 1990 have received the Hib vaccine as infants.
  • Health care providers (family physicians, pediatricians and otolaryngologists) and families should review the vaccination records of current and prospective cochlear implant recipients to ensure that all recommended vaccinations are up to date.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

The Importance of Vaccinations in Cochlear Implant Users

Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening infection. Individuals who have a cochlear implant are at increased risk for bacterial meningitis. Although this risk is small, it is important for children and adults with a cochlear implant to be vaccinated against the bacteria that can gain entry into the brain and commonly cause bacterial meningitis. Two types of bacteria have produced the vast majority of cases of meningitis after cochlear implantation. Steptococcus pneumoniae (“Pneumococcus”) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (“Hib”).

Cochlear implant users and their families should be aware that vaccines against pneumococcus (“pneumo” vaccine) and Hib are widely available. These vaccines strengthen the body’s defenses to protect against the common causes of bacterial meningitis. This is another reason for being sure to get vaccinated.

Follow-up Care

Cochlear implant users and their families should also be aware that vaccinations do not eliminate the risk of meningitis. Children and adults with cochlear implants who develop a middle ear infection (otitis media) or a fever of uncertain cause should seek medical treatment and monitoring until the infection resolves. Infections in a child or an adult with a cochlear implant should be taken seriously. Untreated middle ear and other infections may spread to produce meningitis.
In addition, if an ear with a cochlear implant develops a discharge from the ear canal, or produces unusual ear symptoms or a watery nasal discharge, it is important to have that ear examined by the surgeon who performed the surgery or another suitable experienced cochlear implant surgeon.

Patient Education Materials

  • Brochure: Pneumococcal Vaccination for Cochlear Implant Patients

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

What is facial trauma?

The term facial trauma means any injury to the face or upper jaw bone. Facial traumas include injuries to the skin, underlying skeleton, neck, nose and sinuses, eye socket, or teeth and other parts of the mouth. Sometimes these types of injuries are called maxillofacial injury. Facial trauma is often recognized by swelling or lacerations (breaks in the skin). Signs of broken bones include bruising around the eyes, widening of the distance between the eyes, movement of the upper jaw when the head is stabilized, abnormal sensations on the face, and bleeding from the nose, mouth or ear.

In the U.S., about three million people are treated in emergency departments for facial trauma injuries each year. Of the pediatric patients, 5 percent have suffered facial fractures. In children under three years old, the primary cause of these fractures is falls. In children more than five years old, the primary cause for facial trauma is motor vehicle accidents. Fortunately, the correct use of seat belts, boosters and car seats can dramatically reduce the risk of facial trauma in children.

A number of activities put children at risk for facial injury, such as contact sports, cheerleading, gymnastics and cycling. Proper supervision and appropriate protective gear, such as bicycle helmets, shin guards, helmets, etc., should always be employed during these activities. But when accidents do happen, children’s facial injuries require special attention, as a child’s future growth plays a big role in treatment for facial trauma. So one of the most important issues for a caregiver is to follow a physician’s treatment plan as closely as possible until your child is fully recovered.

Why is facial trauma different in children than adults?

Facial trauma can range between minor injury to disfigurement that lasts a lifetime. The face is critical in communicating with others, so it is important to get the best treatment possible. Pediatric facial trauma differs from adult injury because the face is not fully formed and future growth will be a factor in how the child heals and recovers. Certain types of trauma may cause a delay in growth or further complicate recovery. Difficult cases require doctors or a team of doctors with special skills to make a repair that will grow with your child.

Types of facial trauma

New technology, such as advanced CT scans that can provide three-dimensional anatomic detail, has improved physicians’ ability to evaluate and manage facial trauma. In some cases, immediate surgery is needed to realign fractures before they heal incorrectly. Other injuries will have better outcomes if repairs are done after cuts and swelling have improved. Research has shown that even when an injury does not require surgery, it is important to a child’s health and welfare to continue to follow up with a physician’s care.

Soft tissue injuries

Injuries such as cuts (lacerations) may occur on the soft tissue of the face. In combination with suturing the wound, the provider should take care to inspect and treat any injures to the facial nerves, glands or ducts. In younger children, many lacerations require sedation or general anesthesia to achieve the best repair.

Bone injuries

When facial bone fractures occur, the treatment is similar to that of a fracture in other parts of the body. Some injuries may not need treatment, and others may require stabilization and fixation using wires, plates and screws. Factors influencing these treatment decisions are the location of the fracture, the severity of the fracture, and the age and general health of the patient. It is important during treatment of facial fractures to be careful that the patient’s facial appearance is minimally affected.

Injuries to the teeth and surrounding dental structures

Isolated injuries to teeth are quite common and may require the expertise of various dental specialists. Because of the specific needs of the dental structures, certain actions and precautions should be taken if a child has received an injury to his or her teeth or surrounding dental structures.

  • If a tooth is “knocked out” it should be placed in salt water or milk. The sooner the tooth is re-inserted into the dental socket, the better the chance it will survive, so the patient should see a dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible.
  • Never attempt to “wipe the tooth off” since remnants of the ligament which hold the tooth in the jaw are attached and are vital to the success of replanting the tooth.

References:
Stewart MG, Chen AY. Factors predictive of poor compliance with follow-up after Facial trauma: A prospective study. Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery 1997: 117:72-75

Kim MK, Buchman R, Szeremeta. Penetrating neck trauma in children: An urban hospital’s experience. Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery 2000: 123: 439-43

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Does your child have allergies? Allergies can cause many ear, nose and throat symptoms in children, but allergies can be difficult to separate from other causes. Here are some clues that allergies may be affecting your child.

Children with nasal allergies often have a history of other allergic tendencies (or atopy). These may include early food allergies or atopic dermatitis in infancy. Children with nasal allergies are at higher risk for developing asthma.

Nasal allergies can cause sneezing, itching, nasal rubbing, nasal congestion and nasal drainage. Usually, allergies are not the primary cause of these symptoms in children under four years old. In allergic children, these symptoms are caused by exposure to allergens (mostly pollens, dust, mold and dander). Observing which time of year or in which environments the symptoms are worse can be important clues to share with your doctor.

Ear infections:

One of childrens’ most common medical problems is otitis media, or middle ear infection. In most cases, allergies are not the main cause of ear infections in children under two years old. But in older children, allergies may play role in ear infections, fluid behind the eardrum, or problems with uncomfortable ear pressure. Diagnosing and treating allergies may be an important part of healthy ears.

Sore throats:

Allergies may lead to the formation of too much mucus which can make the nose run or drip down the back of the throat, leading to “post-nasal drip.” It can lead to cough, sore throats and a husky voice.

Sleep disorders:

Chronic nasal obstruction is a frequent symptom of seasonal allergic rhinitis and perennial (year-round) allergic rhinitis. Nasal congestion can contribute to sleep disorders such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, because the nasal airway is the normal breathing route during sleep. Fatigue is one of the most common, and most debilitating, allergic symptoms. Fatigue not only affects children’s quality of life, but has been shown to affect school performance.

Pediatric sinusitis:

Allergies should be considered in children who have persistent or recurrent sinus disease. Depending on the age of your child, their individual history and an exam, your doctor should be able to help you decide if allergies are likely. Some studies suggest that large adenoids (a tonsil-like tissue in the back of the nose) are more common in allergic children.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the throat. It has two lobes joined in the middle by a strip of tissue (the isthmus). The thyroid secretes three main hormones: 1) Thyroxine, that contains iodine, needed for growth and metabolism; 2) Triiodothyronine, also contains iodine and similar in function to Thyroxine; 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 solid tumor malignancy and the most common endocrine malignancy in children. It occurs four times more often in females than males and has similar characteristics as adult thyroid cancer. Surgery is the preferred treatment for this cancer. Although the procedure is often uncomplicated, risks of thyroid surgery include vocal cord paralysis and hypocalcemia (low blood calcium). Consequently, an otolaryngologist – head and neck surgeon, one experienced with head and neck issues, 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. This form can spread to the lymph nodes via lymphatics in the neck and occasionally spreads to more distant sites.

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 more 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 specific inherited genetic conditions, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2)

Anaplastic: This is the fastest growing of the thyroid cancers, with abnormal cells that grow and spread rapidly, especially locally in the neck. This form of cancer is not seen in children.

Symptoms: Symptoms of this disease vary. Your child may have a lump in the neck, persistent swollen lymph nodes, a tight or full feeling in the neck, trouble with breathing or swallowing, or hoarseness.

Diagnosis: If any of these symptoms occur, consult your child’s physician for an evaluation. The evaluation should consist of a head and neck examination to determine if unusual lumps are present. A blood test may be ordered to determine how the thyroid is functioning. Ultrasonography uses sound waves and a computer to create an image of the thyroid gland and neck contents such as lymph nodes. Other tests that may be warranted include a radioactive iodine scan, which provides information about the thyroid shape and function, identifying areas in the thyroid that do not absorb iodine in the normal way, or a fine needle biopsy of any abnormal lump in the thyroid or neck. Sometimes it is necessary to remove a part of the tumor or one of the lobes of the thyroid gland, known as a thyroid lobectomy, for analysis to help establish a diagnosis and plan for management.

Treatments for thyroid cancer:

If the tumor is found to be malignant, then surgery is recommended. Surgery may consist of a lobectomy, subtotal thyroidectomy (removal of at least one lobe and up to near-total removal of the thyroid gland), or a total thyroidectomy. In children with papillary or follicular thyroid cancer, total or near-total thyroidectomy is currently the standard of practice, as children typically have more extensive disease at presentation, have higher rates of spread, and it reduces the risk of recurrence. In children, there is an increased need for repeat surgery when less than a total thyroidectomy is performed. Lymph nodes in the neck may need to be removed as part of the treatment for thyroid cancer if there is suspicion of spread of cancer to the lymph nodes.

Surgery may be followed by radioactive iodine therapy, to destroy cancer cells that are left after surgery. Thyroid hormone therapy may need to be administered throughout your child’s life to replace normal hormones and slow the growth of any residual cancer cells.

If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy (treatment by 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. Radiation treatment may also be required for treatment of some forms of thyroid cancer.

In general, treatment outcomes for this type of cancer in children tend to be excellent. The best outcomes are seen in teenage girls, papillary type cancer, and tumors localized to the thyroid gland.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Overview of Sleep Disordered Breathing

Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a general term for breathing difficulties occurring during sleep. SDB can range from frequent loud snoring to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) a condition involving repeated episodes of partial or complete blockage of the airway during sleep. When a child’s breathing is disrupted during sleep, the body perceives this as a choking phenomenon. The heart rate slows, blood pressure rises, the brain is aroused and sleep is disrupted. Oxygen levels in the blood can also drop.

Approximately 10 percent of children snore regularly and about 2-4 % of the pediatric population has OSA. Recent studies indicate that mild SDB or snoring may cause many of the same problems as OSA in children.

Could my child have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

The most obvious symptom of sleep disordered breathing is loud snoring that is present on most nights. The snoring can be interrupted by complete blockage of breathing with gasping and snorting noises and associated with awakenings from sleep. Due to a lack of good quality sleep, a child with sleep disordered breathing may be irritable, sleepy during the day or have difficulty concentrating in school. Busy or hyperactive behavior may also be observed. Bed-wetting is also frequently seen in children with sleep apnea.

A common physical cause of airway narrowing contributing to SDB is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Overweight children are at increased risk for SDB because fat deposits around the neck and throat can also narrow the airway. Children with abnormalities involving the lower jaw or tongue or neuromuscular deficits such or cerebral palsy have a higher risk of developing sleep disordered breathing.

Potential consequences of untreated pediatric sleep disordered breathing

  • Social: Loud snoring can become a significant social problem if a child shares a room with siblings or at sleepovers and summer camp.
  • Behavior and learning: Children with SDB may become moody, inattentive and disruptive both at home and at school. Sleep disordered breathing can also be a contributing factor to attention deficit disorders in some children.
  • Enuresis: SDB can cause increased nighttime urine production, which may lead to bedwetting.
  • Growth: Children with SDB may not produce enough growth hormone, resulting in abnormally slow growth and development.
  • Obesity: SBD may cause the body to have increased resistance to insulin or daytime fatigue with decreases in physical activity. These factors can contribute to obesity.
  • Cardiovascular: OSA can be associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure or other heart and lung problems.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Sleep disordered breathing in children should be considered if frequent loud snoring, gasping, snorting and thrashing in bed or unexplained bedwetting is observed. Behavioral symptoms can include changes in mood, misbehavior and poor school performance. Not every child with academic or behavioral issues will have SDB, but if a child snores loudly on a regular basis and is experiencing mood, behavior or school performance problems, sleep disordered breathing should be considered. If you notice that your child has any of those symptoms, have them checked by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor). Sometimes physicians will make a diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing based on history and physical examination. In other cases, such as in children suspected of having severe OSA due to craniofacial syndromes, morbid obesity or neuromuscular disorders or for children less than 3 years of age, additional testing such as a sleep test may be recommended.

The sleep study or polysomnography (PSG) is an objective test for sleep disordered breathing. Wires are attached to the head and body to monitor brain waves, muscle tension, eye movement, breathing and the level of oxygen in the blood. The test is not painful and is generally performed in a sleep laboratory or hospital. Sleep tests can occasionally produce inaccurate results, especially in children. Borderline or normal sleep test results may still result in a diagnosis of SDB based on parental observations and clinical evaluation.

Treatment for sleep disordered breathing

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are a common cause for SDB. Surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids (T&A) is generally considered the first line treatment for pediatric sleep disordered breathing if the symptoms are significant and the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged. Of the over 500,000 pediatric T&A procedures performed in the U.S. each year, the majority are currently being done to treat sleep disordered breathing. Many children with sleep apnea show both short and long-term improvement in their sleep and behavior after T&A.

Not every child with snoring should undergo T&A as the procedure does have risks. Potential problems can include anesthesia or airway complications, bleeding, infection and problems with speech and swallowing. If the SDB symptoms are mild or intermittent, academic performance and behavior is not an issue, the tonsils are small, or the child is near puberty (tonsils and adenoids often shrink at puberty), it may be recommended that a child with SDB be watched conservatively and treated surgically only if symptoms worsen.

Recent studies have shown that some children have persistent sleep disordered breathing after T&A. A post-operative PSG may be necessary after surgical intervention, especially in children with persistent symptoms or increased risk factors for persistent apnea after T&A such as obesity, craniofacial anomalies or neuromuscular problems. Additional treatments such as weight loss, the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or additional surgical procedures may sometimes be required.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Today in the United States, studies estimate that 34% of U.S. adults are overweight and an additional 31% (approximately 60 million) are obese. Combined, approximately 127 million Americans are overweight or obese. Some 42 years ago, 13% of Americans were obese, and in 1980 15% were considered obese.

Alarmingly, the number of children who are overweight or obese has doubled in the last two decades as well. Currently, more than 15% of 6- to 11-year-olds and more than 15% of 12- to 19-year-olds are considered overweight or obese.

What is the difference between designated “obese” versus “overweight”?

Unfortunately, the words overweight and obese are often interchanged. There is a difference:

  • Overweight: Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) (a ratio between your height and weight) of 25 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 145 pounds) is considered overweight.
  • Obesity: Anyone with a BMI of 30 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 175 pounds) is considered obese.
  • Morbid obesity: Anyone with a BMI of 40 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 233 pounds) is considered morbidly obese. “Morbid” is a medical term indicating that the risk of obesity related illness is increased dramatically at this degree of obesity.

Obesity can present significant health risks to the young child. Diseases are being seen in obese children that were once thought to be adult diseases. Many experts in the study of children’s health suggest that a dysfunctional metabolism, or failure of the body to change food calories to energy, precedes the onset of disease. Consequently, these children are at risk for Type II diabetes, fatty liver, elevated cholesterol, SCFE (a major hip disorder), menstrual irregularities, sleep apnea and irregular metabolism. Additionally, there are psychological consequences; obese children are subject to depression, loss of self-esteem and isolation from their peers.

Pediatric obesity and otolaryngic problems

Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose and throat specialists, diagnose and treat some of the most common children’s disorders. They also treat ear, nose and throat conditions that are common in obese children, such as:

Sleep apnea

Children with sleep apnea literally stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer, usually ten to 60 times during a single night. Sleep apnea can be caused by either complete obstruction of the airway (obstructive apnea) or partial obstruction (obstructive hypopnea – or slow, shallow breathing), both of which can wake one up. There are three types of sleep apnea – obstructive, central and mixed. Of these, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Otolaryngologists have pioneered the treatment for sleep apnea; research shows that one to three percent of children have this disorder, often between the age of two-to-five years old.

Enlarged tonsils, which block the airway, are usually the key factor leading to this condition. Extra weight in obese children and adults can also interfere with the ability of the chest and abdomen to fully expand during breathing, hindering the intake of air and increasing the risk of sleep apnea.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) as a common condition in childhood that results in severe complications if left untreated. Among the potential consequences of untreated pediatric sleep apnea are growth failure; learning, attention, and behavior problems; and cardio-vascular complications. Because sleep apnea is rarely diagnosed, pediatricians now recommend that all children be regularly screened for snoring.

Middle ear infections

Acute otitis media (AOM) and chronic ear infections account for 15 to 30 million visits to the doctor each year in the U.S. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason why an American child sees a doctor. Furthermore, the incidence of AOM has been rising over the past decades. Although there is no proven medical link between middle ear infections and pediatric obesity there may be a behavioral association between the two conditions. Some studies have found that when a child is rubbing or massaging the infected ear the parent often responds by offering the child food or snacks for comfort.

When a child does have an ear infection the first line of treatment is often a regimen of antibiotics. When antibiotics are not effective, the ear, nose and throat specialist might recommend a bilateral myringotomy with pressure equalizing tube placement (BMT), a minor surgical procedure. This surgery involves the placement of small tubes in the eardrum of both ears. The benefit is to drain the fluid buildup behind the eardrum and to keep the pressure in the ear the same as it is in the exterior of the ear. This will reduce the chances of any new infections and may correct any hearing loss caused by the fluid buildup.

Postoperative vomiting (POV) is a common problem after bilateral myringotomy surgery. The overall incidence is 35 percent, and usually occurs on the first postoperative day, but can occur up to seven days later. Several factors are known to affect the incidence of POV, including age, type of surgery, postoperative care, medications, co-existing diseases, past history of POV, and anesthetic management. Obesity, gastroparesis, female gender, motion sickness, pre-op anxiety, opioid analgesics and the duration of anesthetic all increase the incidence of POV. POV interferes with oral medication and intake, delays return to normal activity and increases length of hospital stay. It remains one of the most common causes of unplanned postoperative hospital admissions.

Tonsillectomies

A child’s tonsils are removed because they are either chronically infected or, as in most cases, enlarged, leading to obstructive sleep apnea. There are several surgical procedures utilized by ear, nose and throat specialists to remove the tonsils, ranging from use of a scalpel to a wand that emits energy that shrinks the tonsils.

Research conducted by otolaryngologists found that morbid obesity was a contributing factor for requiring an overnight hospital admission for a child undergoing removal of enlarged tonsils. Most children who were diagnosed as obese with sleep apnea required a next-day physician follow-up.

A study from the University of Texas found that morbidly obese patients have a significant increase of additional medical disorders following tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for obstructive sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing when compared to moderately obese or overweight patients undergoing this procedure for the same diagnosis. On average they have longer hospital stays, a greater need for intensive care and a higher incidence of the need for apnea treatment of continuous positive airway pressure upon discharge from the hospital. The study found that although the morbidly obese group had a greater degree of sleep apnea, they did benefit from the procedure in regards to snoring, apneic spells and daytime somnolence.

What you can do

If your child has a weight problem, contract your pediatrician or family physician to discuss the weight’s effect on your child’s health, especially prior to treatment decisions. Second, ask your physician about lifestyle and diet changes that will reduce your child’s weight to a healthy standard.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

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 four months old. But an infant’s improved muscle control and the ability to sit up will lead to a spontaneous resolution of significant GER in more than half of infants by 10 months old, 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 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 5 to 8 percent of adolescent children have GERD.

What symptoms are displayed by a child with GERD?

While GER and EER in children often cause relatively few symptoms, the most common initial symptom of GERD is heartburn. Heartburn is more common in adults, and 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 can 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 stenosis, asthma/wheezing, chronic cough and throat clearing, 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.

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, and each test has advantages and shortcomings. Those most commonly used to diagnose GERD include:

  • pH probe: A small wire with an acid sensor is placed through the nose down to the bottom of the esophagus, and usually left in place between 12-24 hours. The sensor detects when acid from the stomach is “refluxed” into the esophagus.
  • 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 narrowing of the tract.
  • Technetium gastric emptying study: The child is fed milk mixed with technetium, a very weak radioactive chemical, which is then followed through the intestinal tract using a special camera. This test helps determine whether some of the milk/technetium ends up in the lungs, and how long milk sits in the stomach.
  • Endoscopy with biopsies: This most comprehensive test involves passing a flexible endoscope with lights and lenses through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. This allows the doctor to see any irritation or inflammation present. In some children with GERD, repeated exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid causes some inflammation (esophagitis). Endoscopy in children usually requires a general anesthetic.

What treatments are available for GERD?

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 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 and have the child eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large amounts of food at one sitting. Avoid eating right before they go to bed or lie down; 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 may assist in alleviating GERD.
  • Dietary changes: Avoid chocolate, carbonated drinks, caffeine, tomato products, peppermint, and other acidic foods like citrus juices. Fried foods and spicy foods are also known to aggravate symptoms. Pay attention to what your child eats.
  • Medical treatment: Most medications prescribed to treat GERD 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. It is rare for children with GERD to require surgery.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

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 ingestible culprit you must consider what type of food allergy your child has. There are two types, classified as:

  • Fixed (immediate) 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 5 to 15 percent of food allergies are of the fixed variety.
  • Cyclic (delayed) 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 immunoglobulin 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, such as eczema, to foods than do adults. But the good news for the young patient is that a child often outgrows his or her food sensitivities over time, even those that are positive on a RAST test. Food allergies may fade, and then inhalant (e.g, dust, ragweed) allergies may begin to manifest themselves.

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 that developed. Be honest! Some well-meaning parents or caregivers often create a food diary that looks healthier than it really 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 the doctor to identify food items that may be the culprits.
  2. Conduct an 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 this period. During this 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. 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 half 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.
  3. 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).

For minor, moderate discomfort from the testing, the caregiver may choose to offer one of the following: 1) a child’s laxative to decrease the transit time through the digestive system; 2) Alka Seltzer® Gold; 3) buffered Vitamin C (one gram).

Fixed food allergies should never be deliberately challenged unless under the direct supervision of a physician.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery