When Whitley Zahn was 18 months old, she started attending daycare. In the months that followed, she began to develop recurrent ear infections. Her pediatrician treated her with antibiotics, but the infections would inevitably return.
“Since Whitley has adverse reactions to some antibiotics, we were limited by the medicines we could treat her with,” Stacy Zahn, Whitley’s mother, said.
Whitley’s pediatrician referred them to Brian A. Metz, MD, FACS, a board-certified otolaryngologist with Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat.
“While most babies and young kids will experience at least one ear infection during childhood, some might suffer from chronic ear infections or persistent fluid in the middle ear,” said Dr. Metz. “These can lead to other issues that affect the child’s hearing, speech, and even his or her ability to perform well at school or other activities.”
Dr. Metz recommended inserting ear tubes in Whitley’s ears to help alleviate her chronic ear infections. Ear tubes are tiny ventilation tubes that are surgically placed through the eardrum, which help prevent the accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum.
Dr. Metz performed Whitley’s surgery under general anesthesia at Olathe Medical Center (OMC) in November 2019 when Whitley was 22 months old.
“Whitley did great,” Stacy said. “She was a little fussy in post-op while we waited for the anesthesia to wear off, but we went home that afternoon, and she played like normal. We had great results with the tubes after surgery.”
Depending on the type of ear tube that the surgeon uses, ear tubes usually fall out on their own, anywhere from six months to 18 months after surgery. Sometimes the doctor may need to remove them surgically, so otolaryngologists follow up with patients regularly after surgery.
During a follow-up appointment with Whitley earlier this summer, Dr. Metz recommended a second surgery to remove the four-year-old’s tonsils and adenoids.
“The tonsils and adenoids are part of the body’s immune system and help protect the body from disease,” Dr. Metz said. “Sometimes if a child has enlarged tonsils or adenoids, it can cause noisy breathing or significant snoring, recurrent ear infections, or a nose that sounds ‘stuffy’ when the person speaks, and Whitley’s parents had seen many of those symptoms. Removing that tissue can open up the airway and prevent recurring episodes of infection and inflammation.”
Dr. Metz performed Whitley’s surgery under general anesthesia again at OMC in August.
“She handled surgery well,” Stacy said. “Dr. Metz gave Whitley a little book to read about what to expect when she came to the hospital for surgery, which she liked. I noticed that first night after surgery, she was already breathing quieter, and her breathing seemed like it was less of a strain.”
Whitley rested and played at home for a few days and returned to school the week after her surgery.
Signs of adenoid and/or tonsil enlargement include:
- Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose most of the time
- Nose sounds “blocked” when the person speaks
- Chronic runny nose
- Noisy breathing during the day
- Recurrent ear infections
- Snoring at night
- Restlessness during sleep, or pauses in breathing for a few seconds at night