Ear Tube and Adenoid Surgery for Toddlers

Little ones are so uncomfortable when they get an ear infection. But it’s especially tough when it seems that they just keep happening one after the other. Maybe you have a referral for your child to see a specialist or wanting to discuss this with the pediatrician. It is important for parents to know what to expect with ear tube and adenoid surgery for toddlers.

A few months ago, both my 2-year-old and 1 year old had their surgeries the same day. So hopefully our experience (which went super smooth overall) will help you get your family ready, from one momma to another!

Reminder: this post is in no way to provide medical information or advice to you as I am only sharing from my experience. Please contact your medical provider for any concerns that you have.

Process of deciding surgery is needed

I do not know if there is a certain “magic number” of ear infections before further action is taken. Your doctor may look at the frequency over time or how long of a time gap there is between infections overall.

Every couple of months it seemed that one or both of my children had an ear infection. The pediatrician referred them to be taken to an E.N.T. (Ear/Nose/Throat) doctor to have that specialist do an evaluation.

This E.N.T. had both of the children’s hearing checked by an audiologist before we met with him. If all E.N.T.’s do that, I am not sure, but this was his procedure. One child at a time sat in basically a sound booth (I also was present), and the audiologist tested their hearing.

This may sound scary or intimidating, but they make it a game for them and even my more sensitive child was comfortable by the end.

After the evaluation was completed, then we met with the E.N.T. He checked over the ears, nose, and you got it-throat. One of my children started snoring at night recently so I mentioned that to the doctor, and he determined that the adenoids should be removed as well.

How long does surgery take?

Ear tubes from start to finish takes approximately 15 minutes, it’s that quick! If your child is older or you’re an adult that is having it done, you would most likely not even need to be put “under”.

But with little ones, they need to be “asleep” even for a quick procedure so the doctor can perform the operation.

One of my children needed both adenoids and tubes. From wheeling him away to surgery to bringing him back it took approximately an hour.

What happens after surgery?

Parents: what you should be emotionally prepared for is how your child may or may not feel like after waking up from the anesthesia.

Your child may just act super groggy or super scared and upset like mine. That’s okay! As long as you know that they are going to have a strong reaction, then it will be a little easier to help soothe your child.

Don’t get me wrong, it will still be tough to see for sure. But going in expecting this will help prevent a bigger emotional reaction from you so you can better assist your baby.

Our doctor allowed us to bring the children’s favorite blankets, stuffed animal, and pacifiers which was great. If your doctor doesn’t mention it in any pre-operation appointments, definitely ask if that’s an option for you too.

What to feed your toddler after the procedure

Before you even leave the building, your child will need to eat or drink something. Nurses will provide a variety of options that are soft to eat and easy on the stomach.

Your child will have to do some fasting before the procedure so they will have a very empty stomach and are susceptible to queasiness.

Even though they are hungry, you may struggle with getting them to eat again. For my daughter, who was still using a pacifier, I had to dip her pacifier in pudding and put it in her mouth to get her to eat.

When you get home, especially that first day, you want to stick to this similar diet. For adenoid surgery, your child may be on a bit longer restriction of soft foods, but your provider will give you specific instructions on that.

Here’s some examples of foods to have handy:

  • Popsicles/Ice cream
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soup
  • Yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Pedialyte

Tip: I would go ahead and purchase these items, plus make sure you have Children’s Tylenol on hand, the day before surgery. You and your child will both have a long enough day, take the stress out of running to the grocery store after the fact too!

What is the recovery time needed?

For the most part, your child will be wanting to play by the end of the day of surgery. They will be more tired and not so hungry. Most doctors are fine with your child returning to school or childcare the following day.

If you have the option, I recommend keeping them home two days at least, just to give them extra rest. But if you can’t, they will be fine!

Especially with adenoid removal, the doctor instructed us to keep our very active 2-year-old, a little less active for a few days. We definitely watched more tv than we normally do, but it helped keep him still.

From then on, we continue to have post-operation appointments, gradually spaced out (1 month, 6 months, etc.).

You can still give your child baths like you normally do and they can go swimming too. But if you plan to take your child out on the lake or the ocean, I would call the doctor’s office to make sure that is okay to do.

Related: How to help your baby sleep with a cold

Though ear tube and adenoid surgery is fairly common, it is still something that requires a lot from us as parents. On the other side of things, I can say that it has been really nice to not be super nervous that a simple cold will give my child ANOTHER ear infection!

Please share below if your child has had this procedure done and what your experiences were.

See you soon!


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