After repeated ear infections or excessive fluid in the ears, a child may be referred to an Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) doctor for the possibility of getting tube surgery. Although the idea of surgery might sound scary, the benefits tend to outweigh the consequences.

My 2 & 1/2 year old just got his second set of tubes (and adenoids removed this time) recently. He had his first set put in before he was 7 months old. Just because your child has repeated ear infections and may need tubes doesn’t mean you did anything wrong as a parent! I always joke that apparently my son didn’t get the memo about breastfed babies not getting sick! Let’s take a look at some of the questions you might have about tube surgery.

Why should I consider tubes for my child?

Every doctor has different standards as to when they will suggest getting tubes in. With the first set of tubes my son had, he had an ear infection that didn’t go away for 2 months. We had tried 4 types of oral antibiotics and one injected antibiotic. The infection cleared up for a few days at a time, then would return with high fevers and lots of pain. The second time my son needed tubes was after the first set came out. Immediately after his tubes came out, he got an ear infection. After it cleared up, his ENT scheduled a hearing test. His ear wasn’t responding to sound the way a normal ear does because of the fluid. Therefore, the ENT suggested that if my son got 3 more ear infections, they would put another set of tubes in so his hearing wouldn’t be compromised. If your child is having multiple ear infections in a short time frame or an infection that isn’t clearing up, your pediatrician might suggest going to an ENT.

Will my child be put under?

Yes. Tube surgery is done under general anesthesia. Generally, the surgery is very short and will be over before you know it. But it’s okay to be nervous, after all, this is your child! Don’t hesitate to ask the surgeon questions.

What should I expect the day of surgery?

Your ENT should give you guidelines of what to expect that day beforehand. Because of the anesthesia, your child will have to have an empty stomach. In my case, I was told not to let my child eat or drink after midnight. The younger your child is, the harder this is! When my son had his first tube surgery, he was still nursing several times throughout the night. To try to make it easier, I woke him up just before midnight for one last nursing session. Luckily, at our hospital, they schedule surgeries from youngest to oldest, so he had surgery bright and early the next morning.

Also expect to talk to a lot of nurses and doctors before surgery You’ll talk to the nurses getting your child prepped and taking a health history. You can also expect to speak with an anesthesiologist and your child’s surgeon. They are there to take care of your child, so don’t ever feel like you are asking too many questions!

What can I expect after the surgery?

The day of surgery, your child may be sleepy. But your child should be back to eating, drinking and playing as normal quickly. If your child is having other procedures (such as adenoids or tonsils taken out), it may take awhile longer to bounce back.

When do tubes fall out?

My son’s ENT said that tubes can fall out anytime from 6 months – 2 years. With his first set, one fell out after about a year, the other after about 16 months. You can expect to have routine check ups with your ENT to make sure everything is going well in the meantime.

This advice should not be substituted for a doctor. It is personal experience and meant to act as a guide for parents.