All About Throats
After your child’s tonsillectomy: Hydration is the important after a tonsillectomy. Cold drinks such as juice, soft drinks, and popsicles, and food such as Jell-O should be offered frequently. Contact your physician if there are signs of dehydration.
For more information regarding the illnesses affecting your child’s throat. Review our kids ENT health links listed below.
- Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate
What is cleft lip and cleft palate?
We all start out life with a cleft lip and palate. During normal fetal development between the 6th and 11th week of pregnancy, the clefts in the lip and palate fuse together. In babies born with cleft lip or cleft palate, one or both of these splits failed to fuse.
A “cleft” means a split or separation; the palate is the “roof” of the mouth. A cleft palate or lip then is a split in the oral (mouth) structure. Physicians call clefting a “craniofacial anomaly.” A child can be born with both a cleft lip and cleft palate or a cleft in just one area. Oral clefts are one of the most common birth defects.
Clefts in the lip can range from a tiny notch in the upper lip to a split that extends into the nose. A cleft palate can range from a small malformation that results in minimal problems to a large separation of the palate that interferes with eating, speaking, and even breathing. Clefts are often referred to as unilateral, a split on one side, or bilateral, one split on each side. There are three primary types of clefts:
1. Cleft lip/palate refers to the condition when both the palate and lip are cleft. About one in 1,000 babies are born with cleft lip/palate.
- About 50 percent of all clefts
- More common in Asians and certain groups of American Indians
- Occurs less frequently in African Americans
- Up to 13 percent of cases present with other birth defects
- Occurs more often in male children
2. Isolated cleft palate is the term used when a cleft occurs only in the palate. About one in 2,000 babies are born with this type of cleft (the incidence of submucous cleft palate, a type of isolated cleft palate, is one in 1,200).
- About 30 percent of all clefts
- All racial groups have similar risk
- Occurs more often in female children
3. Isolated cleft lip refers to a cleft in the lip only accounting for 20 percent of all clefts.
What causes clefts?
No one knows exactly what causes clefts, but most believe they are caused by one or more of three main factors: an inherited characteristic (gene) from one or both parents, environment (poor early pregnancy health or exposure to toxins such as alcohol or cocaine), and genetic syndromes. A syndrome is an abnormality in genes on chromosomes that result in malformations or deformities that form a recognizable pattern. Cleft lip/palate is a part of more than 400 syndromes including Waardenburg, Pierre Robin, and Down syndromes. Approximately 30 percent of cleft deformities are associated with a syndrome, so a thorough medical evaluation and genetic counseling is recommended for cleft patients.
How is a cleft diagnosed?
Clefting of the lip and palate is usually visible during the baby’s first examination. One exception is a submucous cleft where the palate is cleft, but remains covered by smooth, unbroken lining of the mouth. A child with cleft lip or palate is often referred to a multidisciplinary team of experts for treatment. The team may include: an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), plastic surgeon, oral surgeon, speech pathologist, pediatric dentist, orthodontist, audiologist, geneticist, pediatrician, nutritionist, and psychologist/social worker.
How are clefts treated?
Treatment of clefts is highly individual, depending on the overall health of the child and the severity and location of the cleft(s). Multiple surgeries and long-term follow-up are often necessary. Because clefts can interfere with physical, language and psychological development, treatment is recommended as early as possible. Surgery to repair a cleft lip is usually done between 10 and 12 weeks of age.
A cleft palate is repaired through a procedure called palatoplasy, which is done between nine and 18 months. Additional surgeries are often needed to achieve the best results. In addition to surgery, the child may receive follow-up care from members of the multidisciplinary team on issues of speech, hearing, growth, dental, and psychological development.
What are the complications of clefts?
The complications of cleft lip and cleft palate can vary greatly depending on the degree and location of the cleft. They can include all or some or all of the following:
- Breathing: When the palate and jaw are malformed, breathing becomes difficult. Treatments include surgery and oral appliances.
- Feeding: Problems with feeding are more common in cleft children. A nutritionist and speech therapist that specializes in swallowing may be helpful. Special feeding devices are also available.
- Ear infections and hearing loss: Any malformation of the upper airway can affect the function of the Eustachian tube and increase the possibility of persistent fluid in the middle ear, which is a primary cause of repeat ear infections. Hearing loss can be a consequence of repeat ear infections and persistent middle ear fluid. Tubes can be inserted in the ear by an otolaryngologist to alleviate fluid build-up and restore hearing.
- Speech and language delays: Normal development of the lips and palate are essential for a child to properly form sounds and speak clearly. Cleft surgery repairs these structures; speech therapy helps with language development.
- Dental problems: Sometimes a cleft involves the gums and jaw, affecting the proper growth of teeth and alignment of the jaw. A pediatric dentist or orthodontist can assist with this problem.
- Day Care and Ear, Nose, and Throat Problems
Who is in day care?
The 2000 census reported that of among the nation’s 19.6 million preschoolers, grandparents took care of 21 percent, 17 percent were were cared for by their father (while their mother was employed or in school); 12 percent were in day care centers; nine percent were cared for by other relatives; seven percent were cared for by a family day care provider in their home; and six percent received care in nursery schools or preschools. More than one-third of preschoolers (7.2 million) had no regular child-care arrangement and presumably were under maternal care.
Day care establishments are defined as those primarily engaged in care of infants or children, or in providing pre-kindergarten education, where medical care and/or behavioral correction are not a primary function or major element. Some may or may not have substantial educational programs, and some may care for older children when they are not in school.
What are your child’s risks of being exposed to a contagious illness at a day care center?
Medline, a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reports that day care centers do pose some degree of an increased health risk for children, because of the exposure to other children who may be sick.
When your child is in a day care center, the risk is greatest for viral upper respiratory infection (affecting the nose, throat, mouth, voice box) and the common cold, ear infections, and diarrhea. Some studies have tried to link asthma to day care. Other studies suggest that being exposed to all the germs in day care actually IMPROVES your child’s immune system.
Studies suggest that the average child will get eight to ten colds per year, lasting ten – 14 days each, and occurring occurring primarily in the winter months. This means that if a child gets two colds from March to September, and eight colds from September to March, each lasting two weeks, the child will be sick more than over half of the winter.
At the same time, children in a day care environment, exposed to the exchange of upper respiratory tract viruses every day, are expected to have three to ten episodes of otitis media annually. This is four times the incidence of children staying at home.When should your child remain at home instead of day care or school?
Simply put, children become sick after being exposed to other sick children. Some guidelines to follow are:
- When your child has a temperature higher than 100 degrees, keep him/her at home. A fever is a sign of potentially contagious infection, even if the child feels fine. Schools often advise keeping the child at home until a fever-free period has existed for 24 hours.
- When other children in the day care facility have a known contagious infection, such as chicken pox, strep throat or conjunctivitis, keep your child at home.
- Children taking antibiotics should be kept at home until they have taken the medicine for one or two days.
- If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, the young patient should not be around other children. Other signs of illness are an inability to take fluids, weakness or lethargy, sunken eyes, a depressed soft spot on top of infant’s head, crying without tears, and dry mouth.
Can you prevent your child from becoming sick at a day care center?
The short answer is no. Exposure to other sick children will increase the likelihood that your child may “catch” the same illness, particularly with the common cold. The primary rule is to keep your own children at home if they are sick. However, you can:
Teach your child to wash his or her hands before eating and after using the toilet. Infection is spread the most by children putting dirty toys and hands in their mouths, so check your day care’s hygiene cleaning practices.
Have your child examined by a physician before enrollment in a day care center or school. During the examination, the physician will:
- Look for otitis (inflammation) in the ear. This is an indicator of future ear infections.
- Review with you any allergies your child may have. This will assist in determining if the diet offered at the day care center may be harmful to your child.
- Examine the child’s tonsils for infection and size. Enlarged tonsils could indicate that your child may not be getting a healthy sleep at night, resulting in a tired condition during the day.
Alert the day care center manager when your child is ill, and include the nature of the illness.
Day care has become a necessity for millions of families. Monitoring the health of your own child is key to preventing unneccessary sickness. If a serious illness occurs, do not hesitate to have your child examined by a physician.
- Laryngopharyngeal Reflux and Children
Food or liquids that are swallowed travel through the esophagus and into the stomach where acids help digestion. Each end of the esophagus has a sphincter, a ring of muscle, that helps keep the acidic contents of the stomach in the stomach or out of the throat. When these rings of muscle do not work properly, you may get heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Chronic GER is often diagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Sometimes, acidic stomach contents will reflux all the way up to the esophagus, past the ring of muscle at the top (upper esophageal sphincter or UES), and into the throat. When this happens, acidic material contacts the sensitive tissue at back of the throat and even the back of the nasal airway. This is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR.
During the first year, infants frequently spit up. This is essentially LPR because the stomach contents are refluxing into the back of the throat. However, in most infants, it is a normal occurrence caused by the immaturity of both the upper and lower esophageal sphincters, the shorter distance from the stomach to the throat, and the greater amount of time infants spend in the horizontal position. Only infants who have associated airway (breathing) or feeding problems require evaluation by a specialist. This is most critical when breathing-related symptoms are present.
What are symptoms of LPR?
There are various symptoms of LPR. Adults may be able to identify LPR as a bitter taste in the back of the throat, more commonly in the morning upon awakening, and the sensation of a “lump” or something “stuck” in the throat, which does not go away despite multiple swallowing attempts to clear the “lump.” Some adults may also experience a burning sensation in the throat. A more uncommon symptom is difficulty breathing, which occurs because the acidic, refluxed material comes in contact with the voice box (larynx) and causes the vocal cords to close to prevent aspiration of the material into the windpipe (trachea). This event is known as “laryngospasm.”
Infants and children are unable to describe sensations like adults can. Therefore, LPR is only successfully diagnosed if parents are suspicious and the child undergoes a full evaluation by a specialist such as an otolaryngologist. Airway or breathing-related problems are the most commonly seen symptoms of LPR in infants and children and can be serious. If your infant or child experiences any of the following symptoms, timely evaluation is critical.
- Chronic cough
- Noisy breathing (stridor)
- Reactive airway disease (asthma)
Sleep disordered breathing (SDB)
- Frank spit up
- Feeding difficulty
- Turning blue (cyanosis)
- Pauses in breathing (apnea)
- Apparent life threatening event (ALTE)
- Failure to thrive (a severe deficiency in growth such that an infant or child is less than five percentile compared to the expected norm)
What are the complications of LPR?
In infants and children, chronic exposure of the laryngeal structures to acidic contents may cause long term airway problems such as a narrowing of the area below the vocal cords (subglottic stenosis), hoarseness, and possibly eustachian tube dysfunction causing recurrent ear infections, or persistent middle ear fluid, and even symptoms of “sinusitis.” The direct relationship between LPR and the latter mentioned problems are currently under research investigation.
How is LPR diagnosed?
Currently, there is no good standardized test to identify LPR. If parents notice any symptoms of LPR in their child, they may wish to discuss with their pediatrician a referral to see an otolaryngologist for evaluation. An otolaryngologist may perform a flexible fiberoptic nasopharyngoscopy/laryngoscopy, which involves sliding a 2 mm scope through the infant or child’s nostril, to look directly at the voice box and related structures or a 24 hour pH monitoring of the esophagus. He or she may also decide to perform further evaluation of the child under general anesthesia. This would include looking directly at the voice box and related structures (direct laryngoscopy), a full endoscopic look at the trachea and bronchi (bronchoscopy), and an endoscopic look at the esophagus (esophagoscopy) with a possible biopsy of the esophagus to determine if esophagitis is present. LPR in infants and children remains a diagnosis of clinical judgment based on history given by the parents, the physical exam, and endoscopic evaluations.
How is LPR treated?
Since LPR is an extension of GER, successful treatment of LPR is based on successful treatment of GER. In infants and children, basic recommendations may include smaller and more frequent feedings and keeping an infant in a vertical position after feeding for at least 30 minutes. A trial of medications including H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors may be necessary. Similar to adults, those who fail medical treatment, or have diagnostic evaluations demonstrating anatomical abnormalities may require surgical intervention such as a fundoplication.
- Pediatric Food Allergies
Dust, mites, pet dander, and ragweed are not the only allergic threats to your child. Food allergies and sensitivities may cause a wide range of adverse reactions to the skin, respiratory system, stomach, and other physiological functions of the body.
Determining what foods are the cause of an allergic reaction is key to treatment. Before you identify the culinary culprit you must consider what type of food allergy your child has. There are two types of food allergies. They are classified as:
Fixed food allergies: A fixed food allergy may be very apparent, such as the child whose lips swell and throat itches immediately in response to eating peanuts. The cause for this type of food allergy is similar to that of inhalant allergies, so the diagnosis is more easily reached. Blood testing (i.e., RAST test) is typically used to verify fixed food allergies. Approximately five to 15 percent of food allergies are of the fixed variety.
Cyclic food allergies: These allergies are far more common but less understood. Delayed food allergy symptoms can take up to three days to appear. This type of reaction is associated with the body’s immunoglobin G (IgG) or antibodies. Unlike fixed food allergies, this allergic response is cyclical in nature. As an example, a child may be IgG sensitive to milk. Consequently, symptoms might appear if the child increases the intake and/or frequency of milk consumption.
Both children and adults are susceptible to food allergies. The bad news for children is that they often have more skin reactions to foods, such as eczema, than do adults. But the good news for the young patient is that a child often outgrows his or her food sensitivities, even those that are positive on a RAST test, over time. Food allergies may fade, and then inhalant (e.g, dust, ragweed) allergies may begin to manifest.
Diagnosing and treating the cyclic food allergy
If your child is experiencing allergic reactions to food of unknown origin, you should ask yourself, “Are there any foods that my child craves or any food that I avoid offering?” These foods may be the ones that are causing difficulties for the young patient.
Your physician may also suggest the Elimination and Challenge Diet. This dietary test consists of the following steps:
1. Keep a detailed food diary tracking what was eaten (including ingredients), when it was eaten, medications taken, and any symptoms which developed. Be honest! Some well-meaning parents or caregivers often create a food diary to look healthier than it typically is. Your child can receive the best diagnosis if the diet records are accurate, timed precisely, and truthful. The diet diary can be evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat specialist to identify one or several food items that may be the culprits.
2. Conduct an unblinded elimination and challenge diet at home based upon your physician’s assessment of your child’s diet diary. It is best if you carefully maintain a new diet diary for your child during the period of elimination and challenge. During this elimination and challenge diet, your child must abstain from one, and only one, of the possible food culprits at a time for a period of four days. This can be difficult to carry out if the food is very common, such eggs or cereal, so you need to pay strict attention to your child’s diet during the elimination phase. Any “cheating” will invalidate the results.
3. On the fifth day, you will be asked to feed your child the suspected culprit food item. This is the challenge! Provide your child an average-sized portion of the food in question to be eaten in five minutes. In one hour the child should eat another 1/2 portion if no symptoms have developed. Any symptoms that develop are then timed and recorded. With a true cyclic food allergy, you would expect a significant worsening of the symptoms described in the original diet diary, although the challenge symptoms may vary as well. Fixed food allergies should never be deliberately challenged unless under the direct supervision of a physician. For minor, moderate discomfort from the testing, the patient may take: 1) a child’s laxative to decrease the transit time through the digestive system, 2) Alka Seltzer Gold, 3) Buffered Vitamin C (one gram).
If the Elimination and Challenge Diet confirms a cyclic food allergy, then you will be asked to abstain from feeding your child this food for a period of three to six months. After this time you can slowly reintroduce the food on a rotary basis; it is not to be eaten more frequently than every four days (once or twice a week).
- Pediatric GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease) and Your Otolaryngologist
Everyone has gastroesophageal reflux (GER), the backward movement (reflux) of gastric contents into the esophagus. Extraesophageal Reflux (EER) is the reflux of gastric contents from the stomach into the esophagus with further extension into the throat and other upper aerodigestive regions. In infants, more than 50 percent of children three months or younger have at least one episode of regurgitation a day. This rate peaks at 67 percent at age four months. But an infant’s improved neuromuscular control and the ability to sit up will lead to a spontaneous resolute ion of significant GER in more than half of infants by age ten months and four out of five at age 18 months.
Researchers have found that 10 percent of infants (younger than 12 months) with GER develop significant complications. The diseases associated with reflux are known collectively as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Physically, GERD occurs when a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus malfunctions. Normally, this muscle closes to keep acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus. The continuous entry of acid or refluxed materials into areas outside the stomach can result in significant injury to those areas. It is estimated that some five to eight percent of adolescent children have GERD.
What symptoms are displayed by a child with GERD?
GER and EER in children often cause relatively few symptoms until a problem exists (GERD). The most common initial symptom of GERD is heartburn. Heartburn is more common in adults, whereas children have a harder time describing this sensation. They usually will complain of a stomach ache or chest discomfort, particularly after meals.
More frequent or severe GER and EER can cause other problems in the stomach, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, lungs, sinuses, ears and even the teeth. Consequently, other typical symptoms could include crying/irritability, poor appetite/feeding and swallowing difficulties, failure to thrive/weight loss, regurgitation (“wet burps” or outright vomiting), stomach aches (dyspepsia), abdominal/chest pain (heartburn), sore throat, hoarseness, apnea, laryngeal and tracheal stenoses, asthma/wheezing, chronic sinusitis, ear infections/fluid, and dental caries. Effortless regurgitation is very suggestive of GER. However recurrent vomiting (which is not the same) does not necessarily mean a child has GER.
Unlike infants, the adolescent child will not necessarily resolve GERD on his or her own. Accordingly, if your child displays the typical symptoms of GERD, a visit to a pediatrician is warranted. However, in some circumstances, the disorder may cause significant ear, nose, and throat disorders. When this occurs, an evaluation by an otolaryngologist is recommended.
How is GERD diagnosed?
Most of the time, the physician can make a diagnosis by interviewing the caregiver and examining the child. There are occasions when testing is recommended. The tests that are most commonly used to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux include:
• pH probe: A small wire with an acid sensor is placed through the nose down to the bottom of the esophagus. The sensor can detect when acid from the stomach is “refluxed” into the esophagus. This information is generally recorded on a computer. Usually, the sensor is left in place between 12 and 24 hours. At the conclusion of the test, the results will indicate how often the child “refluxes” acid into his or her esophagus and whether he or she has any symptoms when that occurs.
• Barium swallow or upper GI series: The child is fed barium, a white, chalky, liquid. A video x-ray machine follows the barium through the upper intestinal tract and lets doctors see if there are any abnormal twists, kinks or narrowings of the upper intestinal tract.
• Technetium gastric emptying study: The child is fed milk mixed with technetium, a very weakly radioactive chemical, and then the technetium is followed through the intestinal tract using a special camera. This test is helpful in determining whether some of the milk/technetium ends up in the lungs (aspiration). It may also be helpful in determining how long milk sits in the stomach.
• Endoscopy with biopsies: This most comprehensive test involves the passing down of a flexible endoscope with lights and lenses through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. This allows the doctor to get a directly look at the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum and see if there is any irritation or inflammation present. In some children with gastroesophageal reflux, repeated exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid causes some inflammation (esophagitis). Endoscopy in children usually requires a general anesthetic.
• Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy: A small lighted scope is placed in the nose and the pharynx to evaluate for inflammation.
What treatments for GERD are available?
Treatment of reflux in infants is intended to lessen symptoms, not to relieve the underlying problem, as this will often resolve on its own with time. A useful simple treatment is to thicken a baby’s milk or formula with rice cereal, making it less likely to be refluxed.
Several steps can be taken to assist the older child with GERD:
• Lifestyle changes: Raise the head of the child’s bed about 30 degrees while they sleep and have the child eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large amounts of food at one sitting. Avoid having the child eat right before they go to bed or lie down; instead, let two or three hours pass. Try a walk or warm bath or even a few minutes on the toilet. Some researchers believe that certain lifestyle changes such as losing weight or dressing in loose clothing my assist in alleviating GERD. Even chewing sugarless gum may help.
• Dietary changes: Avoid chocolate, carbonated drinks, caffeine, tomato products, peppermint, and other acidic foods as citrus juices. Fried foods and spicy foods are also known to aggravate symptoms. Pay attention to what your child eats and be alert for individual problems.
• Medical Treatment: Most of the medications prescribed to treat GERD either break down or lessen intestinal gas, decrease or neutralize stomach acid, or improve intestinal coordination. Your physician will prescribe the most appropriate medication for your child.
• Surgical Treatment: It is rare for children with GERD to require surgery. For the few children who do require surgery, the most commonly performed operation is called Nissen fundoplication. With this procedure, the top part of the stomach (the fundus) is wrapped around the bottom of the esophagus to create a collar. After the operation, every time the stomach contracts, the collar around the esophagus contracts preventing reflux.
- Pediatric Head and Neck Tumors
Tumors or growths in the head and neck region may be divided into those that are benign (not cancerous) and malignant (ie., cancer). Fortunately, most growths in the head and neck region in children are considered to be benign. These benign growths can be related to infection, inflammation, fluid collections, swellings, or neoplasms (tumors) that are non life-threatening. The malignant growths, on the other hand, may be life-threatening and cause other problems related to their growth and spread. Even the malignant growths in the head and neck are usually treatable.
It is very common for children to have enlarged tonsils and adenoids. These are almost always from an infection or inflammation. It is very rare that children develop a cancer, lymphoma, or sarcoma of these areas. When the tonsils, adenoids, or other areas of the mouth or throat remain enlarged or are enlarged on only one side, it is important to have an evaluation by a specialist in ear, nose and throat or otolaryngology-head and neck surgery.
The lymph nodes of the neck region may become enlarged during childhood. Most of the time, this is reactive in nature and related to inflammation or infection. However, if the lymph nodes remain enlarged for a period of time without going away, it is important to have an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon evaluate the problem.
Other benign growths in the face and neck include cysts (fluid collection) such as branchial cleft cyst, thyroglossal duct cyst, cystic hygroma, and dermoid cysts. These often require removal due to their continued growth and potential for infection. Growths of blood vessels often are seen in the face and neck and these are often referred to as hemangiomas, vascular malformations, lymphatic and arteriovenous malformations (AVM). Some of these may require removal or treatment depending upon the type and location.
Sinus and Nose Growths
Although most children have nose bleeds and occasional allergies and sinus infection, sometimes tumors of the nose and sinus present with similar symptoms. It is generally recommended that a child with continuous sinus problems or nose bleeds be evaluated by an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon to be sure it is not a tumor or other treatable condition.
Non-epithelial neoplasms constitute the majority of sinonasal (sinus) tumors in children and adolescents. Among these, rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) or undifferentiated sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma account for the majority of cases. Among head and neck RMS 14 percent arise from the nasal cavity and 10 percent from the paranasal sinuses. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma accounts for one third of the nasopharyngeal neoplasms in children. As is the case in adult patients, it is associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection as demonstrated by EBV DNA presence in malignant cells. Less frequently, Ewing’s sarcoma/PNET can present in this location. These tumors have also been described as secondary malignancies following treatment of retinoblastoma and other neoplasms. Esthesioneuroblastoma is a rare sinonasal tumor historically related to Ewing/PNET, although more recently comparative genomic hybridization analysis disputes this relation. Other less common sinonasal tumors presenting in children include hemangioma and hemagiopericitoma, fibroma and fibrosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, and desmoid fibromatosis.
Salivary Gland Tumors
There are three paired sets of salivary glands in the head and neck region. These include the ones in front of the ears (parotid), below the jaw (submandibular), and underneath the tongue (sublingual). Additionally, there are numerous very small salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat. Although tumors can arise in these areas, they are rare. Thus, any child with a growth in these areas should be seen by an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon.
The thyroid gland is found in the front of the lower part of the neck just above the chest area but below the Adam’s apple on both sides. Although tumors can arise in this area, they are rare. Thus, any child with a growth in this area should be seen by an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon.
- Pediatric Obesity and Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders
Today in the United States, studies estimate that 34 percent of U.S. adults are overweight and an additional 31 percent (approximately 60 million) are obese. Combined, approximately 127 million Americans are overweight or obese. Some 42 years ago, 13 percent of Americans were obese, and in 1980 15 percent were considered obese.
Alarmingly, the number of children who are overweight or obese has doubled in the last two decades as well. Currently, more than 15 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds and more than 15 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds are considered overweight or obese.
What is the difference between designated “obese” versus “overweight?”
Unfortunately, the words overweight and obese are often interchanged. There is a difference:
Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) (a ratio between your height and weight) of 25 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 145 pounds) is considered overweight.
Anyone with a BMI of 30 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 175 pounds) is considered obese.Morbid obesity: Anyone with a BMI of 40 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 233 pounds) is considered morbidly obese. “Morbid” is a medical term indicating that the risk of obesity related illness is increased dramatically at this degree of obesity.
Obesity can present significant health risks to the young child. Diseases are being seen in obese children that were once thought to be adult diseases. Many experts in the study of children’s health suggest that a dysfunctional metabolism, or failure of the body to change food calories to energy, precedes the onset of disease. Consequently, these children are at risk for Type II Diabetes, fatty liver, elevated cholesterol, SCFE (a major hip disorder), menstrual irregularities, sleep apnea, and irregular metabolism. Additionally, there are psychological consequences; obese children are subject to depression, loss of self-esteem, and isolation from their peers.
Pediatric obesity and otolaryngic problems
Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose, and throat specialists, diagnose and treat some of the most common children’s disorders. They also treat ear, nose, and throat conditions that are common in obese children, such as:
Children with sleep apnea literally stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer, usually ten to 60 times during a single night. Sleep apnea can be caused by either complete obstruction of the airway (obstructive apnea) or partial obstruction (obstructive hypopnea—hypopnea is slow, shallow breathing), both of which can wake one up. There are three types of sleep apnea—obstructive, central, and mixed. Of these, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common.
Otolaryngologists have pioneered the treatment for sleep apnea; research shows that one to three percent of children have this disorder, often between the age of two-to-five years old.
Enlarged tonsils, which block the airway, are usually the key factor leading to this condition. Extra weight in obese children and adults can also interfere with the ability of the chest and abdomen to fully expand during breathing, hindering the intake of air and increasing the risk of sleep apnea.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) as a “common condition in childhood that results in severe complications if left untreated.” Among the potential consequences of untreated pediatric sleep apnea are growth failure; learning, attention, and behavior problems; and cardio-vascular complications. Because sleep apnea is rarely diagnosed, pediatricians now recommend that all children be regularly screened for snoring.
Middle ear infections:
Acute otitis media (AOM) and chronic ear infections account for 15 to 30 million visits to the doctor each year in the U.S. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason why an American child sees a doctor. Furthermore, the incidence of AOM has been rising over the past decades. Although there is no proven medical link between middle ear infections and pediatric obesity there may be a behavioral association between the two conditions. Some studies have found that when a child is rubbing or massaging the infected ear the parent often responds by offering the child food or snacks for comfort.
When a child does have an ear infection the first line of treatment is often a regimen of antibiotics. When antibiotics are not effective, the ear, nose and throat specialist might recommend a bilateral myringotomy with pressure equalizing tube placement (BMT), a minor surgical procedure. This surgery involves the placement of small tubes in the eardrum of both ears. The benefit is to drain the fluid buildup behind the eardrum and to keep the pressure in the ear the same as it is in the exterior of the ear. This will reduce the chances of any new infections and may correct any hearing loss caused by the fluid buildup.
Postoperative vomiting (POV) is a common problem after bilateral myringotomy surgery. The overall incidence is 35 percent, and usually occurs on the first postoperative day, but can occur up to seven days later. Several factors are known to affect the incidence of POV, including age, type of surgery, postoperative care, medications, co-existing diseases, past history of POV, and anesthetic management. Obesity, gastroparesis, female gender, motion sickness, pre-op anxiety, opiod analgesics, and the duration of anesthetic all increase the incidence of POV. POV interferes with oral medication and intake, delays return to normal activity, and increases length of hospital stay. It remains one of the most common causes of unplanned postoperative hospital admissions.
A child’s tonsils are removed because they are either chronically infected or, as in most cases, enlarged, leading to obstructive sleep apnea. There are several surgical procedures utilized by ear, nose, and throat specialists to remove the tonsils, ranging from use of a scalpel to a wand that emits energy that shrinks the tonsils.
Research conducted by otolaryngologists found that:
Morbid obesity was a contributing factor for requiring an overnight hospital admission for a child undergoing removal of enlarged tonsils. Most children who were diagnosed as obese with sleep apnea required a next-day physician follow-up.
A study from the University of Texas found that morbidly obese patients have a significant increase of additional medical disorders following tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for obstructive sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing when compared to moderately obese or overweight patients undergoing this procedure for the same diagnosis. On average they have longer hospital stays, a greater need for intensive care, and a higher incidence of the need for apnea treatment of continuous positive airway pressure upon discharge from the hospital. The study found that although the morbidly obese group had a greater degree of sleep apnea, they did benefit from the procedure in regards to snoring, apneic spells, and daytime somnolence.
What you can do
If your child has a weight problem, contract your pediatrician or family physician to discuss the weight’s effect on your child’s health, especially prior to treatment decisions. Second, ask your physician about lifestyle and diet changes that will reduce your child’s weight to a healthy standard.
- Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is a common problem for adults leading to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and early death. Other consequences are bedroom disharmony, excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, poor performance at work, failing personal relationships, and increased risk for accidents, including motor vehicle accidents.
Sleep disordered breathing in children, from infancy through puberty, is in some ways a similar condition but has different causes, consequences, and treatments. A child with SDB does not necessarily have this condition as an adult.
The premiere symptom of sleep disordered breathing is snoring that is loud, present every night regardless of sleep position, and is ultimately interrupted by complete obstruction of breathing with gasping and snorting noises. Approximately 10 percent of children are reported to snore. Ten percent of these children (one percent of the total pediatric population) have obstructive sleep apnea.
When an individual, young or old, obstructs breathing during sleep, the body perceives this as a choking phenomenon. The heart rate slows, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, blood pressure rises, the brain is aroused, and sleep is disrupted. In most cases a child’s vascular system can tolerate the changes in blood pressure and heart rate. However, a child’s brain does not tolerate the repeated interruptions to sleep, leading to a child that is sleep deprived, cranky, and ill behaved.
Consequences of Untreated Pediatric Sleep Disordered Breathing
Snoring: A problem if a child shares a room with a sibling and during sleepovers.
Sleep Deprivation: The child may become moody, inattentive, and disruptive both at home and at school. Classroom and athletic performance may decrease along with overall happiness. The child will lack energy, often preferring to sit in front of the television rather than participate in school and other activities. This may contribute to obesity.
Abnormal Urine Production: SDB also causes increased nighttime urine production, and in children, this may lead to bedwetting.
Growth: Growth hormone is secreted at night. Those with SDB may suffer interruptions in hormone secretion, resulting in slow growth or development.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): There are research findings that identify sleep disordered breathing as a contributing factor to attention deficit disorders.
Diagnosis of Sleep Disordered Breathing
The first diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing in children is made by the parent’s observation of snoring. Other observations may include obstructions to breathing, gasping, snorting, and thrashing in bed as well as unexplained bedwetting. Social symptoms are difficult to diagnose but include alteration in mood, misbehavior, and poor school performance. (Note: Every child who has sub par academic and social skills may not have SDB, but if a child is a serious snorer and is experiencing mood, behavior, and performance problems, sleep disordered breathing should be considered.)
A child with suspected SDB should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist – head and neck surgeon. If the symptoms are significant and the tonsils are enlarged, the child is strongly recommended for T&A, or tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (removal of the tonsils and adenoids). Conversely, if the symptoms are mild, academic performance remains excellent, the tonsils are small, and puberty is eminent (tonsils and adenoids shrink at puberty), it may be recommended that SDB be treated only if matters worsen. The majority of cases fall somewhere in between, and physicians must evaluate each child on a case-by-case basis.
There are other pediatric sleep disorder diagnoses. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and apparent life threatening episode (ALTE) are considered forms of sleep disordered breathing. Children with these conditions warrant thorough evaluation by a pediatric sleep specialist. Children with craniofacial abnormalities, primarily abnormalities of the jaw bones, tongue, and associated structures, often have sleep disordered breathing. This must be managed and the deformities treated as the child grows.
The sleep test is the standard diagnostic test for sleep disordered breathing. This test can be performed in a sleep laboratory or at home. Sleep tests can produce inaccurate results, especially in children. Borderline or normal sleep test results may still result in a diagnosis of SDB based on parental observation and clinical evaluation.
Treatment for Sleep Disordered Breathing
Enlarged tonsils are the most common cause for SDB, thus tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy is the most effective treatment for pediatric sleep disordered breathing. T&A achieves a 90 percent success rate for childhood SDB. Of the nearly 400,000 T&As performed in the U.S. each year, 75 percent are performed to treat sleep disordered breathing.
Not every child with snoring should undergo T&A. The procedure does have risks and possible complications. Aside from the mental anguish experienced by the parent and child, potential problems include: anesthesia risks, bleeding, and infection.
- T & A PostOp
The tonsils are two pads of tissue located on both sides of the back of the throat. Adenoids sit high on each side of the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth. Tonsils and adenoids are often removed when they become enlarged and block the upper airway, leading to breathing difficulty. They are also removed when recurrence of tonsil infections or strep throat cannot be successfully treated by antibiotics.
The procedure to remove the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy; excision of the adenoids is an adenoidectomy. Both are usually performed concurrently; hence the procedure is known as a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy or T&A. T&A is an outpatient surgical procedure lasting between 30 and 45 minutes and performed under general anesthesia. Normally, the young patient will remain at the hospital or clinic for about four hours after surgery for observation. An overnight stay may be required if there are complications such as excessive bleeding or poor intake of fluids.
When the tonsillectomy patient comes home
Most children require seven to ten days to recover from the surgery. Some may recover more quickly; others can take up to two weeks for a full recovery. The following guidelines are recommended:Drinking: The most important requirement for recovery is for the patient to drink plenty of fluids. Milk products should be avoided in the first 24 hours after surgery. Offer juice, soft drinks, popsicles, and Jell-O (pudding, yogurt, and ice-cream after 24 hours). Some patients experience nausea and vomiting after the surgery caused by the general anesthetic. This usually occurs within the first 24 hours and resolves on its own. Contact your physician if there are signs of dehydration (urination less than 2-3 times a day or crying without tears).Eating: Generally, there are no food restrictions (other than milk products) after surgery. The sooner the child eats and chews, the quicker the recovery. Tonsillectomy patients may be reluctant to eat because of sore throat pain; consequently, some weight loss may occur, which is gained back after a normal diet is resumed.
Fever: A low-grade fever may be observed several days after surgery. Contact your physician if the fever is greater than 102†.
Activity: Bed rest is recommended for several days after surgery. Activity may be increased slowly, with a return to school after normal eating and drinking resumes, pain medication ceases, and the child sleeps through the night. Travel away from home is not recommended for two weeks following surgery.
Breathing: The parent may notice abnormal snoring and mouth breathing due to swelling in the throat. Breathing should return to normal when swelling subsides, 10-14 days after surgery.
Scabs: A scab will form where the tonsils and adenoids were removed. These scabs are thick, white, and cause bad breath. This is not unexpected. Most scabs fall off in small pieces five to ten days after surgery and are swallowed.
Bleeding: With the exception of small specks of blood from the nose or in the saliva, bright red blood should not be seen. If such bleeding occurs, contact your physician immediately or take your child to the emergency room. Bleeding is an indication that the scabs have fallen off too early, and medical attention is required.
Pain: Nearly all children undergoing a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy will have mild to severe pain in the throat after surgery. Some may complain of an earache (because stimulation of the same nerve that goes to throat also travels to the ear), and a few may incur pain in the jaw and neck (due to positioning of the patient in the operating room).
Pain control: Your physician will prescribe appropriate pain medications for the young patient such as codeine, hydrocodone, Tylenol with codeine liquid, or Lortab (hydrocodone with Tylenol). Generally, an acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra, Panadol) teaspoon solution is recommended for regular administration to the patient for three or four days after surgery.
If you are troubled about any phase of your child’s recovery, contact your physician immediately.
- Tongue-tie (Ankyloglossia)
Most of us think of tongue-tie as a situation we find ourselves in when we are too excited to speak. Actually, tongue-tie is the non-medical term for a relatively common physical condition that limits the use of the tongue, ankyloglossia.
Before we are born, a strong cord of tissue that guides development of mouth structures is positioned in the center of the mouth. It is called a frenulum. After birth, the lingual frenulum continues to guide the position of incoming teeth. As we grow, it recedes and thins. This frenulum is visible and easily felt if you look in the mirror under your tongue. In some children, the frenulum is especially tight or fails to recede and may cause tongue mobility problems.
The tongue is one of the most important muscles for speech and swallowing. For this reason having tongue-tie can lead to eating or speech problems, which may be serious in some individuals.
When Is Tongue-tie a Problem That Needs Treatment?
Feeding: A new baby with a too tight frenulum can have trouble sucking and may have poor weight gain. Such feeding problems should be discussed with your child’s pediatrician who may refer you to an otolaryngologist – head and neck surgeon (ear, nose, and throat specialist) for additional treatment.
NOTE: Nursing mothers who experience significant pain while nursing or whose baby has trouble latching on should have their child evaluated for tongue tie. Although it is often overlooked, tongue tie can be an underlying cause of feeding problems that not only affect a child’s weight gain, but lead many mothers to abandon breast feeding altogether.
In Toddlers and Older Children
Speech: While the tongue is remarkably able to compensate and many children have no speech impediments due to tongue-tie, others may. Around the age of three, speech problems, especially articulation of the sounds – l, r, t, d, n, th, sh, and z may be noticeable. Evaluation may be needed if more than half of a three–year–old child’s speech is not understood outside of the family circle. Although, there is no obvious way to tell in infancy which children with ankyloglossia will have speech difficulties later, the following associated characteristics are common:
- V-shaped notch at the tip of the tongue
- Inability to stick out the tongue past the upper gums
- Inability to touch the roof of the mouth
- Difficulty moving the tongue from side to side
As a simple test, caregivers or parents might ask themselves if the child can lick an ice cream cone or lollipop without much difficulty. If the answer is no, they cannot, then it may be time to consult a physician.
Appearance: For older children with tongue-tie, appearance can be affected by persistent dental problems such as a gap between the bottom two front teeth. Your child’s physician can guide you in the diagnosis and treatment of tongue-tie. If he/she recommends surgery, an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon (ear, nose, and throat specialist), can perform a surgical procedure called a frenulectomy.
Tongue-tie Surgery Considerations
Tongue-tie surgery is a simple procedure and there are normally no complications. For very young infants (less than six-weeks-old), it may be done in the office of the physician. General anesthesia may be recommended when frenulectomy is performed on older children. But in some cases, it can be done in the physician’s office under local anesthesia. While frenulectomy is relatively simple, it can yield big results. Parents should consider that this surgery often yields more benefit than is obvious by restoring ease of speech and self-esteem.
- Tonsillectomy Procedures
Unfortunately, there may be a time when medical therapy (antibiotics) fails to resolve the chronic tonsillar infections that affect your child. In other cases, your child may have enlarged tonsils, causing loud snoring, upper airway obstruction, and other sleep disorders. The best recourse for both these conditions may be removal or reduction of the tonsils and adenoids. The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery recommends that children who have three or more tonsillar infections a year undergo a tonsillectomy; the young patient with a sleep disorder should be a candidate for removal or reduction of the enlarged tonsils.
The Tonsillectomy Today
The first report of tonsillectomy was made by the Roman surgeon Celsus in 30 AD. He described scraping the tonsils and tearing them out or picking them up with a hook and excising them with a scalpel. Today, the scalpel is still the preferred surgical instrument of many ear, nose, and throat specialists. However, there are other procedures available – the choice may be dictated by the extent of the procedure (complete tonsil removal versus partial tonsillectomy) and other considerations such as pain and post-operative bleeding. A quick review of each procedure follows:
Cold Knife (Steel) Dissection: Removal of the tonsils by use of a scalpel is the most common method practiced by otolaryngologists today. The procedure requires the young patient to undergo general anesthesia; the tonsils are completely removed with minimal post-operative bleeding.
Electrocautery: Electrocautery burns the tonsillar tissue and assists in reducing blood loss through cauterization. Research has shown that the heat of electrocautery (400 degrees Celsius) results in thermal injury to surrounding tissue. This may result in more discomfort during the postoperative period.
Harmonic Scalpel: This medical device uses ultrasonic energy to vibrate its blade at 55,000 cycles per second. Invisible to the naked eye, the vibration transfers energy to the tissue, providing simultaneous cutting and coagulation. The temperature of the surrounding tissue reaches 80 degrees Celsius. Proponents of this procedure assert that the end result is precise cutting with minimal thermal damage.
Radiofrequency Ablation: Monopolar radiofrequency thermal ablation transfers radiofrequency energy to the tonsil tissue through probes inserted in the tonsil. The procedure can be performed in an office setting under light sedation or local anesthesia. After the treatment is performed, scarring occurs within the tonsil causing it to decrease in size over a period of several weeks. The treatment can be performed several times. The advantages of this technique are minimal discomfort, ease of operations, and immediate return to work or school. Tonsillar tissue remains after the procedure but is less prominent. This procedure is recommended for treating enlarged tonsils and not chronic or recurrent tonsillitis.
Carbon Dioxide Laser: Laser tonsil ablation (LTA) finds the otolaryngologist employing a hand-held CO2 or KTP laser to vaporize and remove tonsil tissue. This technique reduces tonsil volume and eliminates recesses in the tonsils that collect chronic and recurrent infections. This procedure is recommended for chronic recurrent tonsillitis, chronic sore throats, severe halitosis, or airway obstruction caused by enlarged tonsils. The LTA is performed in 15 to 20 minutes in an office setting under local anesthesia. The patient leaves the office with minimal discomfort and returns to school or work the next day. Post-tonsillectomy bleeding may occur in two to five percent of patients. Previous research studies state that laser technology provides significantly less pain during the post-operative recovery of children, resulting in less sleep disturbance, decreased morbidity, and less need for medications. On the other hand, some believe that children are adverse to outpatient procedures without sedation.
Microdebrider: What is a “microdebrider?” The microdebrider is a powered rotary shaving device with continuous suction often used during sinus surgery. It is made up of a cannula or tube, connected to a hand piece, which in turn is connected to a motor with foot control and a suction device. The endoscopic microdebrider is used in performing a partial tonsillectomy, by partially shaving the tonsils. This procedure entails eliminating the obstructive portion of the tonsil while preserving the tonsillar capsule. A natural biologic dressing is left in place over the pharyngeal muscles, preventing injury, inflammation, and infection. The procedure results in less post-operative pain, a more rapid recovery, and perhaps fewer delayed complications. However, the partial tonsillectomy is suggested for enlarged tonsils – not those that incur repeated infections.
Bipolar Radiofrequency Ablation (Coblation): This procedure produces an ionized saline layer that disrupts molecular bonds without using heat. As the energy is transferred to the tissue, ionic dissociation occurs. This mechanism can be used to remove all or only part of the tonsil. It is done under general anesthesia in the operating room and can be used for enlarged tonsils and chronic or recurrent infections. This causes removal of tissue with a thermal effect of 45-85 C°. The advantages of this technique are less pain, faster healing, and less post operative care.
Consult with your specialist regarding the optimum procedure to remove or reduce your child’s tonsils and adenoids.
What is tonsillitis? Tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the pharyngeal tonsils. The inflammation may involve other areas of the back of the throat including the adenoids and the lingual tonsils (areas of tonsil tissue at the back of the tongue). There are several variations of tonsillitis: acute, recurrent, and chronic tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess.
Viral or bacterial infections and immunologic factors lead to tonsillitis and its complications. Nearly all children in the United States experience at least one episode of tonsillitis. Because of improvements in medical and surgical treatments, complications associated with tonsillitis, including mortality, are rare.
Who gets tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis most often occurs in children; however, the condition rarely occurs in children younger than two years. Tonsillitis caused by Streptococcus species typically occurs in children aged five to 15 years, while viral tonsillitis is more common in younger children. A peritonsillar abscess is usually found in young adults but can occur occasionally in children. The patient’s history often helps identify the type of tonsillitis (i.e., acute, recurrent, chronic) that is present.
What causes tonsillitis?
The herpes simplex virus, Streptococcus pyogenes (GABHS) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, and the measles virus cause most cases of acute pharyngitis and acute tonsillitis. Bacteria cause 15-30 percent of pharyngotonsillitis cases; GABHS is the cause for most bacterial tonsillitis.What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?The type of tonsillitis determines what symptoms will occur.
Acute tonsillitis: Patients have a fever, sore throat, foul breath, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), odynophagia (painful swallowing), and tender cervical lymph nodes. Airway obstruction due to swollen tonsils may cause mouth breathing, snoring, nocturnal breathing pauses, or sleep apnea. Lethargy and malaise are common. These symptoms usually resolve in three to four days but may last up to two weeks despite therapy.
Recurrent tonsillitis: This diagnosis is made when an individual has multiple episodes of acute tonsillitis in a year.Chronic tonsillitis: Individuals often have chronic sore throat, halitosis, tonsillitis, and persistently tender cervical nodes.Peritonsillar abscess: Individuals often have severe throat pain, fever, drooling, foul breath, trismus (difficulty opening the mouth), and muffled voice quality, such as the “hot potato” voice (as if talking with a hot potato in his or her mouth).
What happens during the physician visit?
Your child will undergo a general ear, nose, and throat examination as well as a review of the patient’s medical history.
A physical examination of a young patient with tonsillitis may find:
Fever and enlarged inflamed tonsils covered by pus.
Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus pyogenes (GABHS) can cause tonsillitis associated with the presence of palatal petechiae (minute hemorrhagic spots, of pinpoint to pinhead size, on the soft palate). Neck nodes may be enlarged. A fine red rash over the body suggests scarlet fever. GABHS pharyngitis usually occurs in children aged 5-15 years.
Open-mouth breathing and muffled voice resulting from obstructive tonsillar enlargement. The voice change with acute tonsillitis usually is not as severe as that associated with peritonsillar abscess.
Tender cervical lymph nodes and neck stiffness (often found in acute tonsillitis).
Signs of dehydration (found by examination of skin and mucosa).
The possibility of infectious mononucleosis due to EBV in an adolescent or younger child with acute tonsillitis, particularly when cervical, axillary, and/or groin nodes are tender. Severe lethargy, malaise and low-grade fever accompany acute tonsillitis.
A grey membrane covering tonsils that are inflamed from an EBV infection. (This membrane can be removed without bleeding.) Palatal petechiae (pinpoint spots on the soft palate) may also be seen with an EBV infection.
Red swollen tonsils that may have small ulcers on their surfaces in individuals with herpes simplex virus (HSV) tonsillitis.
Unilateral bulging above and to the side of one of the tonsils when peritonsillar abscess exists. A stiff jaw may be present in varying severity.
Tonsillitis is usually treated with a regimen of antibiotics. Fluid replacement and pain control are important. Hospitalization may be required in severe cases, particularly when there is airway obstruction. When the condition is chronic or recurrent, a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils is often recommended.
- Antihistamines, Decongestants, and Cold Remedies
Drugs for stuffy nose, sinus trouble, congestion, and the common cold constitute the largest segment of the over-the-counter market for America’s pharmaceutical industry. When used wisely, they provide welcome relief for at least some of the discomforts that affect almost everyone occasionally and that affect many people chronically. Drugs in these categories are useful for relief of symptoms from allergies, upper respiratory infections (i.e., sinusitus, colds, flu), and vasomotor rhinitis (a chronic stuffy nose caused by such unrelated conditions as emotional stress, thyroid disease, pregnancy, and others). These drugs do not cure the allergies, infections, etc.; they only relieve the symptoms, thereby making the patient more comfortable.
Histamine is an important body chemical that is responsible for the congestion, sneezing, and runny nose that a patient suffers with an allergic attack or an infection. Antihistamine drugs block the action of histamine, therefore reducing the allergy symptoms. For the best result, antihistamines should be taken before allergic symptoms get well established.
The most annoying side effect that antihistamines produce is drowsiness. Though desirable at bedtime, it is a nuisance to many people who need to use antihistamines in the daytime. To some people, it is even hazardous. These drugs are not recommended for daytime use for people who may be driving an automobile or operating equipment that could be dangerous. Newer non-sedating antihistamines, available by prescription only, do not have this effect. The first few doses cause the most sleepiness; subsequent doses are usually less troublesome.
Typical antihistamines include Allegra®, Benadryl®, Chlor-Trimetron,®, Claritin®, Clarinex®, Teldrin®, Zyrtec,® etc.
Congestion in the nose, sinuses, and chest is due to swollen, expanded, or dilated blood vessels in the membranes of the nose and air passages. These membranes have an abundant supply of blood vessels with a great capacity for expansion (swelling and congestion). Histamine stimulates these blood vessels to expand as described previously.
Decongestants, on the other hand, cause constriction or tightening of the blood vessels in those membranes, which then forces much of the blood out of the membranes so that they shrink, and the air passages open up again.
Decongestants are chemically related to adrenalin, the natural decongestant, which is also a type of stimulant. Therefore, the side effect of decongestants is a jittery or nervous feeling. They can cause difficulty in going to sleep, and they can elevate blood pressure and pulse rate. Decongestants should not be used by a patient who has an irregular heart rhythm (pulse), high blood pressure, heart disease, or glaucoma. Some patients taking decongestants experience difficulty with urination. Furthermore, decongestants are often used as ingredients in diet pills. To avoid excessively stimulating effects, patients taking diet pills should not take decongestants.
Typical decongestants are phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine®*), and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®, etc.)
* May be available over–the–counter without a prescription. Read labels carefully, and use only as directed.
Theoretically, if the side effects could be properly balanced, the sleepiness sometimes caused by antihistamines could be cancelled by the stimulation of decongestants. Numerous combinations of antihistamines with decongestants are available: Actifed,®* Allegra-D,® Chlor-Trimeton D,®* Claritin D,® Contac,®* Co-Pyronil 2,®* Deconamine,® Demazin,®* Dimetapp,®* Drixoral,®* Isoclor,®* Nolamine,® Novafed A,® Ornade,® Sudafed Plus,® Tavist D,®* Triaminic,®* and Trinalin,® to name just a few.
A patient may find one preparation quite helpful for several months or years but may need to switch to another one when the first loses its effectiveness. Since no one reacts exactly the same as another to the side effects of these drugs, a patient may wish to try his own ideas on adjusting the dosages. One might take the antihistamine only at night and take the decongestant alone in the daytime. Or take them together, increasing the dosage of antihistamine at night (while decreasing the decongestant dose) and then doing the opposite for daytime use.
Antihistamine (Chlor-Trimeton,®* 4mg)—one tablet three times daily and two tablets at bedtime.
Decongestant (Sudafed,®* 30mg)—two tablets three times daily and one tablet at bedtime.
Decongestants and/or antihistamines are the principal ingredients in “cold” remedies, but drying agents, aspirin (or aspirin substitutes) and cough suppressants may also be added. The patient should choose the remedy with ingredients best suited to combat his own symptoms. If the label does not clearly state the ingredients and their functions, the consumer should ask the pharmacist to explain them.
The types of nose sprays that can be purchased without a prescription usually contain decongestants for direct application to nasal membranes. They can give prompt relief from congestion by constricting blood vessels. However, direct application creates a stronger stimulation than decongestants taken by mouth. It also impairs the circulation in the nose, which after a few hours, stimulates the vessels to expand to improve the blood flow again. This results in a “bounce-back” effect. The congestion recurs. If the patient uses the spray again, it starts the cycle again. Spray–decongestion– rebound–and more congestion.
In infants, this rebound rhinitis can develop in two days, whereas in adults, it often takes several more days to become established. An infant taken off the drops for 12 to 24 hours is cured, but well-established cases in adults often require more than a simple “cold turkey” withdrawal. They need decongestants by mouth, sometimes corticosteroids, and possibly (in patients who continuously have used the sprays for months and years) a surgical procedure to the inside of the nose. For this reason, the labels on these types of nose sprays contain the warning “Do not use this product for more than three days.” Nose sprays should be reserved for emergency and short term use.
(The above description and advice does not apply to the type of prescription anti-allergy nose sprays that may be ordered by your physician.)
- Tonsils and Adenoids
Insight Into Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy
Tonsils and adenoids are masses of tissue that are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin, and armpits. Tonsils are the two masses on the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth without special instruments.
Tonsils and adenoids are near the entrance to the breathing passages where they can catch incoming germs, which cause infections. They “sample” bacteria and viruses and can become infected themselves. Scientists believe they work as part of the body’s immune system by filtering germs that attempt to invade the body, and that they help to develop antibodies to germs.
This happens primarily during the first few years of life, becoming less important as we get older. Children who must have their tonsils and adenoids removed suffer no loss in their resistance.
What Affects Tonsils And Adenoids?
The most common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids are recurrent infections (throat or ear) and significant enlargement or obstruction that causes breathing and swallowing problems.
Abscesses around the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis, and infections of small pockets within the tonsils that produce foul-smelling, cheese-like formations can also affect the tonsils and adenoids, making them sore and swollen. Tumors are rare, but can grow on the tonsils.
When Should I See My Doctor?
You should see your doctor when you or your child suffer the common symptoms of infected or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
The primary methods used to check tonsils and adenoids are:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Throat cultures/Strep tests
- Blood tests
What Should I Expect At the Exam?
Your physician will ask about problems of the ear, nose, and throat and examine the head and neck. He or she will use a small mirror or a flexible lighted instrument to see these areas.
Cultures/strep tests are important in diagnosing certain infections in the throat, especially “strep” throat.
X-rays are sometimes helpful in determining the size and shape of the adenoids. Blood tests can determine problems such as mononucleosis.
How Are Tonsil And Adenoid Diseases Treated?
Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially those caused by streptococcus, are first treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids may be recommended. The two primary reasons for tonsil and/or adenoid removal are (1) recurrent infection despite antibiotic therapy and (2) difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids.
Such obstruction to breathing causes snoring and disturbed sleep that leads to daytime sleepiness in adults and behavioral problems in children. Some orthodontists believe chronic mouth breathing from large tonsils and adenoids causes malformations of the face and improper alignment of the teeth.
Chronic infection can affect other areas such as the eustachian tube – the passage between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear. This can lead to frequent ear infections and potential hearing loss.
Recent studies indicate adenoidectomy may be a beneficial treatment for some children with chronic earaches accompanied by fluid in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion).
In adults, the possibility of cancer or a tumor may be another reason for removing the tonsils and adenoids.
In some patients, especially those with infectious mononucleosis, severe enlargement may obstruct the airway. For those patients, treatment with steroids (e.g., cortisone) is sometimes helpful.
Tonsillitis And Its Symptoms
Tonsillitis is an infection in one or both tonsils. One sign is swelling of the tonsils. Other signs or symptoms are:
- Redder than normal tonsils
- A white or yellow coating on the tonsils
- A slight voice change due to swelling
- Sore throat
- Uncomfortable or painful swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
- Bad breath
Enlarged Adenoids And Their Symptoms
If you or your child’s adenoids are enlarged, it may be hard to breathe through the nose. Other signs of constant enlargement are:
- Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose most of the time
- Nose sounds “blocked” when the person speaks
- Noisy breathing during the day
- Recurrent ear infections
- Snoring at night
- Breathing stops for a few seconds at night during snoring or loud breathing (sleep apnea)
Surgery For Tonsils and Adenoids
Your child: Talk to your child about his/her feelings and provide strong reassurance and support throughout the process. Encourage the idea that the procedure will make him/her healthier. Be with your child as much as possible before and after the surgery. Tell him/her to expect a sore throat after surgery. Reassure your child that the operation does not remove any important parts of the body, and that he/she will not look any different afterward. If your child has a friend who has had this surgery, it may be helpful to talk about it with that friend.
Adults and Children: For at least two weeks before any surgery, the patient should refrain from taking aspirin or other medications containing aspirin. (WARNING: Children should never be given aspirin because of the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome).
- If the patient or patient’s family has had any problems with anesthesia, the surgeon should be informed. If the patient is taking any other medications, has sickle cell anemia, has a bleeding disorder, is pregnant, has concerns about the transfusion of blood, or has used steroids in the past year, the surgeon should be informed.
- A blood test and possibly a urine test may be required prior to surgery.
- Generally, after midnight prior to the operation, nothing (chewing gum, mouthwashes, throat lozenges, toothpaste, water) may be taken by mouth. Anything in the stomach may be vomited when anesthesia is induced, and this is dangerous.
When the patient arrives at the hospital or surgery center, the anesthesiologist or nursing staff may meet with the patient and family to review the patient’s history. The patient will then be taken to the operating room and given an anesthetic. Intravenous fluids are usually given during and after surgery.
After the operation, the patient will be taken to the recovery area. Recovery room staff will observe the patient until discharged. Every patient is special, and recovery times vary for each individual. Many patients are released after 2–10 hours. Others are kept overnight. Intensive care may be needed for select cases.
Your ENT specialist will provide you with the details of pre-operative and postoperative care and answer any questions you may have.
There are several postoperative symptoms that may arise. These include (but are not limited to) swallowing problems, vomiting, fever, throat pain, and ear pain. Occasionally, bleeding may occur after surgery. If the patient has any bleeding, your surgeon should be notified immediately.
Any questions or concerns you have should be discussed openly with your surgeon, who is there to assist you.
After your child’s tonsillectomy: Hydration is the important after a tonsillectomy. Cold drinks such as juice, soft drinks, and popsicles, and food such as Jell-O should be offered frequently. Contact your physician if there are signs of dehydration.
Copyright American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery 2006