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Will "tubes" help my 19-month-old daughter's recurrent ear infections?

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My 19-month-old daughter has had one ear infection after another since she turned 1 (and I stopped breastfeeding). The doctor has put her on several different antibiotics, but her ear infections continue. The doctor is now suggesting tubes. I have heard both positive and negative things about tubes. What does the latest research show with regard to tubes -- are they safe, and do they really help? What alternatives are there?


There is a lot of controversy about the treatment of chronic and recurring ear infections, and nobody has the final word. The purpose of the surgery is to drain the thick fluid that has collected in the middle ear and to prevent infections while the ear heals completely. There is no evidence that tubes are necessary to ensure normal speech and hearing in the long run, and tubes can, in rare instances, cause permanent holes in the eardrum that need surgical repair later. On the other hand, tubes can prevent suffering if a child has severe pain and fever with infections. Sometimes allergies predispose children to ear infections. Since you point out that this bout began after you stopped breastfeeding, it would be simple and harmless to try a milk-free diet for a few weeks and see whether a cow's milk allergy could be contributing to the problem. It may also help to get your daughter to give up the bottle, which can contribute to the problem. Once winter, the season for colds and other respiratory infections, is over, you may not need to do the surgery. Ear infections are rarely life-threatening. My advice is to go slowly and get a few opinions before jumping into the operating room.  

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