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Education 22 February 2021

Kids ENT Month

February is Kids ENT Health Month, a month dedicated to the special care given to the smallest ears and noses.

Concerns affecting the ear, nose and throat remain among some of the top reasons for pediatric office visits with 90 percent of children experiencing an ear infection in their lifetime.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, frequent ear infections occur in 20 percent of children. For many of these patients, they seek the specialized care of an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Dr. Paul Johnson is a Laramie native and an otolaryngologist (ENT) at Ivinson Medical Group. Caring for the ENT health of patients of all ages, Dr. Johnson has a particular interest in pediatric ENT and improving the ENT health of children. Diving into the common ENT concerns that bring younger patients into his office, we asked Dr. Johnson to tell us more, what is an otolaryngologist and how do you know if your child needs to see one?

Q: What is an Otolaryngologist?

Dr. Johnson: An otolaryngologist in more common terms, is an ear, nose and throat specialist. 

We take care of diseases affecting the ear, nose and throat. We are also trained as head and neck surgeons. Some ENT’s, including myself, also have fellowship designation in allergy. Here in the surgical clinic, we also run a full allergy clinic at Ivinson.

Q: What are common reasons for a child to see an ENT?

Dr. Johnson: Common reasons would be reoccurring ear infections, hearing loss, recurrent tonsil infections, sleep apnea and allergies are the main things we see children for.

Q: How do I know if my child needs to see an ENT?

Dr. Johnson: I think that primary care providers are absolutely wonderful because their wealth of knowledge is so broad. Going to your primary care provider for common issues like reoccurring infections, they are often able to treat the problem without a specialist. If the provider feels that a certain issue is a little outside their scope, or if the primary care provider has been trying several different treatments that haven’t worked, at that point it may be time to seek a specialist like an ENT. 

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Why might my child need to see an ENT?

Dr. Johnson broke down the most common reasons he see’s pediatric patients in his office.

My child suffers from frequent ear infections

When you bring your child in for an appointment with our ENT team, the first thing we are going to do is take a complete history about the ear infections and other important health aspects that contribute to developing ear infections. Then we would do a detailed head and neck exam, including the ears. A hearing test may be needed to assess the ears which can be done with our audiologist, Amy Weaver, who is on staff here at Ivinson.

Placing ear tubes in children is a relatively quick procedure done in the operating room under sedation. Ear tubes equalize the pressure between the middle ear space and atmosphere to prevent buildup of fluid and reduce the risk of ear infection. 

The most common tube that I place in the ear, lasts on average for one year and then they come out on their own typically. 

My child has problems with snoring

We do see a fair number of children that come see us because of snoring. In 2021, snoring on its own, is not a reason of concern. Sometimes children who snore can have underlying sleep apnea where they actually stop breathing for a few seconds and then gasp for air. That is a problem and that is a reason why you would want to see your ENT provider. Often what we would do is recommend tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for those children, which is quite successful at treating that problem. It is actually the number one reason why tonsils and adenoids are removed. 

I think my child has allergies, can we test them?

We can do reliable allergy testing on children age 4 and older. You can certainly test children under the age of 4, but there is a high, false negative rate. So if the test is positive that can be helpful but if it is negative that might be something we want to retest the child for when they are older. 

There are two ways that we can allergy test:

One is the traditional skin testing, which we can do on age 6 and older. That can test for common inhalant allergies like pets, dusts, weeds, trees and grasses. 

The other is blood testing that we often use for younger children or if there is a concern for food allergies. We are able to do blood testing right here at our lab. 

Both skin testing and blood testing are thought to be equally reliable and they are both covered by insurance.

Traditionally, we have been able to treat patient’s allergies with immunotherapy which is an allergy shot. More recently, we have been able to treat patients with sublingual immunotherapy, which are drops that patients can do at home. These are safer and they’re better tolerated by children because there is no injection and it’s easier for busy parents to do the drops at home rather than bring their child in.

Ear, Nose and Throat Care for All Ages

Caring for kids and their ear, nose and throat health it is certainly something that I personally love doing,” Dr. Johnson said. I know that our staff also very much enjoys working with children.”

If you have any questions about pediatric ear, nose and throat care, call the Ivinson Medical Group surgical clinic to speak to a member of our team about your child’s needs at (307) 7554540.