Surgery? My baby? You want my baby to have surgery? Anxious thoughts crowd your mind. Your pediatrician and/or pediatric specialist has just told you that your child needs to be put under anesthesia for the benefit of their health.

Calm down, mama. You will get through this—and so will they.

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I have been unfortunate enough to have had all three of my children under go surgery. However, I have been so fortunate and blessed that their surgeries were minor in comparison to what many other children go through.

My children were sick often in their first years of life. Maybe it was how many activities we were involved in or the fact that I am not the best about washing away all of the germs. I do understand that my children’s “sick” could be described as minor in comparison to what other children are suffering from.

Still, that does not change the fact that being constantly sick or congested and on antibiotics can be draining for your child. Lord knows, it can be draining for the parents as well.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the waiting room at Tampa Surgery Center. My one-year-old is here today for ear tubes. While I wait,  what I want to do is to provide you with some of what I have learned having gone through five prior surgeries with my older two children, ages 5 and 3. My tips will include how to prepare for and how to help your child cope with ear tube surgery, an adenoidectomy and a tonsillectomy.

14 Tips for Ear Tube Surgery

Let’s start with ear tube surgery also called myringotomy. According to kidshealth.org, many kids get otitis media (middle ear infections). Ear infections usually occur when a child is between the ages of 6 months and 2 years old.

However, in my case, my almost six-year-old still gets them. She has had six ear infections in nine months. Although ear infections are fairly easy to treat, they are almost always (at least in my case) treated with antibiotics.  This is because you run the risk of hearing loss or speech delay if enough ear infections are left untreated.

But, always treating with antibiotics and having so much of those is not good for your child’s body either. My understanding is that the new trend amongst some pediatricians is more wait and see. Pediatricians these days are beginning to wait and see if the ear infection can clear on its own, rather then jumping to an immediate prescription for oral antibiotics.

Despite this, most ENTs would say that a child with frequent ear infections, who is frequently treated with antibiotics, is a prime candidate for a successful ear tube surgery.

My daughter has had two sets of tubes and she is only five. My son has had one set put in,  but I believe only one of the tubes is still in. With my baby, she just got her tubes back in March. For me, it was a relief to be able to have the same ENT and anesthesiology work on all three children. This alleivated some of the anxiousness.

Although I am not a medical professional and am not providing medical advice, here are my personal tips for you if your child is scheduled to receive ear tubes and/or if you are contemplating myringotomy:

  1. Make sure that you like and trust your pediatrician. Make sure that you value their opinion. If you don’t trust them, get a second opinion or a new pediatrician.
  2. Exhuast all the methods for dealing with ear infections. For less severe infections, try homeopathic remedies, such as essential oils, and see if those help at all. For the more severe, treat with standard medicine and see if the ear clears and for how long.
  3. Try to improve your hygiene and hand washing habits for your child. See if taking better protection against germs leads to less ear infections for them.
  4. Find an ENT you trust.
  5. Make sure that your ENT performs her surgeries at a facility you are comfortable with.
  6. Research your assigned anesthesiologist if you can find out their information beforehand.
  7. Luckily most anesthesiologist use a gas to put your child to sleep for this type of surgery. For my children they each put on  “princess mask”/ “superhero mask” over their nose; this made it less scary for them.
  8. Most surgery centers and anesthesiologists do not allow the parent(s) to stay with the child while the child is being put under.
  9. Expect that the harder part (for both you and your child) leading up to the surgery will likely be that in most cases they cannot eat or drink for an extended period of time before the surgery (typically a few hours).
  10. The surgery time is typically pretty brief and usually under one hour. Still, expect that the waiting will seem like an eternity.
  11. Understand that your child may come out of surgery “like a lion or a lamb” as my ENT would put it. They may be super cuddly and mushy and want mommy to love on them or they may be slightly disoriented and  a little aggressive  from the anesthesia.
  12. Expect and understand that their schedule may be thrown off for a few days. Their sleep the first night after surgery has the chance to to be difficult and/or it may be hard to even get them down to sleep.
  13. Once the tubes are in, signs of an ear infection will be easier to detect as pus will drain from the ears.
  14. Remember that although ear tubes aren’t the cure-all, so many parents rave that a child with ear tubes is like having a new child; one who gets sick less often and is less fussy.

Adenoidectomies

More often then not, children have their adenoids out at the same time they get tubes put in.  It is optional, but you should follow the recommendation of your pediatrician and ENT. For me, each of my three children had their adenoids out at the same time as their myringotomy

An adenoidectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove your child’s adenoids, which ares masses of lymphoid tissue that are located behind the nasal passages. If your child’s adenoids are infected often, are consistently enlarged, cause them to snore and have sleep problems and/or sinus and ear infections, then they may be a candidate for an adenoidectomy.

I followed the recommendations from my pediatrician and ENT, along with my gut, when deciding to remove my children’s adenoids. For me, they were sick so often, that I felt removing them was inevitable,  and I preferred to only put them under anesthesia one time.

10 Tips for Tonsilectomies

Now on to the next beast, the tonsillectomy (cue background scary music). The dreaded tonsillectomy will require a longer recovery than the ear tubes and adenoidectomy. Still, your child’s natural disposition and tolerance to pain will dictate or at least play a role in the duration and challenging-ness of the recovery.

Two of my three children have had their tonsils removed and that is probably only because the baby is only one year old. Of course I do not want her to be recommended for such surgery, but if she follows the same path as the other two, as she has been, she would be getting them removed within the next two years.

Both my daughter and my son had very different (but still similar in some ways) recovery experiences when it comes to the tonsillectomy. Let’s first talk about the tonsillectomy and then discuss the recovery from it.

A tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of your child’s tonsils which are two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat. In a healthy child, tonsils are believed to act as the immune system’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses that enter your mouth. This makes the tonsils vulnerable to infection and inflammation.

A tonsillectomy may be recommended for your child if they get frequent tonsil infections and/or they get frequent bouts of tonsilitis. Tonsilectomies are even recommended for some with severe breathing trouble during sleep. Usually, a tonsillectomy is not recommended unless their tonsil “issues” occur frequently and don’t respond to other treatments.

Some facts and tips about your child’s tonsillectomy…

  1. A tonsilectomy (unless done as emergency procedure or under duress) is usually an outpatient procedure. That means your child should be able to go home the day of the surgery. Of course, the child’s age plays a role. I believe that if your child has the surgery under three years of age then they may require an overnight. This is likely dependant upon your ENT and your healthcare coverage. An overnight stay is possible as well if complications arise during the surgery or if your child is going into surgery already severely ill.
  2. A tonsilectomy is performed under general anesthesia. Although this is scary for you the parent, it does mean that your child will not be aware of the procedure. Thankfully, because of this, they will not experience pain during the surgery.
  3. Your child’s tonsils will likely be removed using a scalpel or a heating tool.   — Once again, your child will likely come out of surgery like a “lion” or a “lamb,” as with the previous surgeries. More often then then not, you will get back a lion with lamb tendencies. Do not be scared by this. This is a normal reaction to the anesthesia.
  4. Your child will be in pain. This is inevitable. However, the pain tolerance level for each child is different. With my daughter, she was happily sitting on the kitchen counter eating ice-cream the same afternoon as surgery. With my son, however, he was G.R.U.M.P.Y for at least the whole first week and a half following.
  5. Expect that your biggest challenge may be keeping up with the pain medication schedule. Your doctors/specialist will likely be adamant that you do not miss a pain dose. They will encourage you to give pain medicine every three hours during the recovery period, even if that means waking your child up. That part is not fun at all. My daughter would be so disoriented to be woken from her sleep. You need to rouse your child enough to get them to cooperate to take the medicine, but not to completely wake them, as you then want them to return to sleep. This is a task. An unpleasant one for both you and your child.
  6. If your child is under the age of 36 months at the time of surgery, use FEVERALL,  a pain medicine suppository. It is totally not as bad as it sounds and if you do it during a diaper change, he/she will not even realize. This was super helpful for us in managing my son’s pain as he refused to take oral pain relief.
  7. Encourage fluids, popsicles, etc.
  8. Let your child have as much ice cream, pudding, mushed up french fries etc. as they want! Note: You will be told to avoid acidic, spicy, hard or crunchy foods as they may cause pain or bleeding. Still, I gave my children what they wanted and could tolerate.
  9. Rest, rest rest. Hard for kids and parents alike, but it is important. Rest is important for several days after surgery. Strenuous activities should be avoided for two weeks after surgery. I would say keep your child out of school for five days to a week at minimum. Overall, you should follow your gut and talk to your doctor about any activities that should be avoided.
  10. Keep an eye out for bleeding, dehydration and breathing problems as these may require you to seek emergency care.

In the end, you need be confident that you  have chosen the best possible health care providers to treat your child. Knowing that you have entrusted your child’s surgery and  his/her life, to this person, is more than nerve racking.

Proper research and asking the right questions will almost guarantee that you are in great hands. If you value the opinion of your pediatrician and your specialist and you are trusting your gut when it comes to your children’s medical decisions, then you are doing everything right.

Good luck. Hopefully all will go well and you’ll all be on the road to recovery shortly.

Featured Photo Courtesy: shutterstock