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Caring for Your Kid After Ear Tube Surgery: Five Things Every Mom Should Know

Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by Otonomy, Inc., makers of OTIPRIO® (ciprofloxacin otic suspension). FWMB contributor Robyn wrote this article based on her own experiences with ear tube surgery.

ear tube surgeryLike many kids, my son had multiple ear infections that finally warranted a referral by our pediatrician to an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) for ear tube surgery. As parents, we were nervous about general anesthesia for our then 10-month-old child, but he handled this common outpatient procedure just fine — and was back to playing and laughing within a couple of days.

For most children, ear tube surgery can relieve pain often caused by frequent ear infections. Most children with ear tubes do not experience complications and are able to continue on with higher levels of health. However, our story is a little different, in that my 7-year-old son has now had 10 ear tube surgeries because of an abnormality in his ear anatomy. This unfortunately makes us experts when it comes to this procedure and the aftercare processes.

Here’s some wisdom for parents caring for their child after an ear tube surgery:

The surgery itself happens very quickly. Before surgery, the child cannot have anything to eat or drink, so my husband and I also chose not to eat or drink in front of him. That meant on surgery day, I had not yet had my coffee! I learned that if you’re going to the hospital coffee shop while your child is in surgery, go quickly because the entire procedure typically only takes about 15 minutes!

Waking up from anesthesia is different for every child. Expect to see a moaning, groggy, and grumpy version of your child when you meet him or her in recovery. It takes some time to wake up from general anesthesia, and a child typically has a little difficulty in the transition. Take a deep breath, relax, and have patience with your child. Be a calming and soothing presence for your family. Your child will eventually wake up completely and in our case, be back to his or her normal self in a short amount of time.

Take the rest of the day to recover. Although my son was fine by the afternoon after most of his surgeries, each child recovers differently. Take the day off from your normal routine as much as you can and be at home with your child. Most likely you had to wake up early to arrive for pre-op, and you and your child may want to rest. The truth is we all need days to slow down and just enjoy the company of our children without all our to-do lists and busy schedules. After some of the surgeries, we bought a little toy for him to unwrap and play with to make the day special. 

You may notice a change in your child’s hearing. For most children, the hearing improvement after an ear tube surgery is immediately apparent. The child, who perhaps had not heard well for months, suddenly is more sensitive to noises that were previously dull and muted. The middle ear fluid is now gone and with tubes in place, your child will begin to hear more clearly. Some children may be startled over some louder noises, so be aware of this as he or she recovers.

Post-surgery means no water around the ears, and a regimen of antibiotic ear drops. Just when you think the hard part — the surgery — is behind you, get ready for the next steps! Be careful in the week or so after the surgery to keep the ear dry. This can often be tricky thanks to bathtubs and swimming pools, so we used earplugs religiously, which I highly recommend, as long as it is approved by your ENT. Ear drops, for our family, were always the hardest part because we were told to administer multiple drops, usually twice a day, for about a week and a half. Trust me, easier said than done! If you have a young child, it can be hard for him or her to lay still. My son did not like the “taste” of ear drops that he can sense in his mouth, so he demands a remedy immediately after the drops (gum, Gatorade, etc.). Also, he asked that I hold his hand while I administered the drops, which is complicated because I needed one hand to squeeze the bottle and one hand to hold his head. Of course, we would run late for school on the mornings we had to do the drops; once you add in talking through the anxiety of the drops, giving the drops, waiting for the drops to travel down the ear canal while lying on his side, plus the necessary taste bud treat, it was at least a 15 minute ordeal each time. Sometimes, I wondered if I had squeezed the right amount of drops in, and even if I had, I wondered if they had all traveled down the ear canal.

I know that many other parents might struggle with giving ear drops too. For all the times that we needed ear drops after surgery, I wish we had known about OTIPRIO, also known as ciprofloxacin otic suspension. OTIPRIO is a prescription antibiotic medicine for children 6 months and older, that is administered by the ENT physician in both ears during the procedure to treat middle ear fluid buildup (otitis media with effusion) instead of giving ear drops after the surgery. That means parents can spend more time focusing on recovery after ear tube surgery instead of struggling with giving ear drops.

OTIPRIO may not be for all children as kids who are allergic to ciprofloxacin or products from the same type of antibiotic family (quinolones) or to the ingredients in OTIPRIO should not receive it. There are situations in which OTIPRIO may cause bacteria or fungi that are resistant to antibiotics to grow so the doctor will treat your child’s infection with a different medicine. In the clinical testing of OTIPRIO, the side effects reported the most were swelling of the nasal passages, irritability, and runny nose. 

To learn more about OTIPRIO, ask your child’s doctor.

For more information about the struggle of administering ear drops after surgery, please check out this infographic.

Please see full prescribing information at

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