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Q & A with Children’s of Mississippi Pediatric ENTs – Dr. J. Mark Reed, Dr. Jeff Carron, and Dr. Claude Harbarger

Q & A with Children’s of Mississippi Pediatric ENTs –  Dr. J. Mark Reed, Dr. Jeff Carron,  and Dr. Claude Harbarger

Children’s of Mississippi’s Pediatric Otolaryngology includes three fellowship-trained pediatric otolaryngologists, more commonly referred to as ear, nose and throat doctors (ENTs) – Dr. J. Mark Reed, Dr. Jeff Carron, and Dr. Claude Harbarger. The three are Mississippi’s only ENTs who exclusively specialize in pediatrics. The practice treats more than 10,000 patients a year. 

When is it time for a child to see an ear, nose and throat specialist?

Just like for any medical problem, it may be time to see a specialist if the condition doesn’t improve with usual treatments. 

Pediatric ear, nose, and throat problems are extremely common. Ear infections and tonsil and adenoid enlargement are among the most common. Many others, including hearing loss or airway problems, can significantly affect a child’s life and development. Even though a problem may be common doesn’t mean that it can’t have lasting consequences. One of the best things about what we do is helping to fix common and complex problems to allow a child to maintain normal developmental milestones. 

What is unique about an ENT who specializes in pediatric care?

A pediatric ENT has special training and certification in caring for infants and children with complex ENT disorders or common ENT disorders in otherwise complex children. We are part of a team of many different providers specializing in pediatric care and dedicated to caring for infants and children at Children’s of Mississippi. 

Whether a child has a common problem like ear infections or tonsil enlargement or a more complex problem like hearing loss or airway problems, our advanced training and exclusive focus on pediatric patients allows us to provide outstanding care. And – we love doing it!

Can frequent ear infections cause lasting damage?

Frequent ear infections are certainly no fun. If you have ever had an ear infection yourself, you know how painful they can be. It’s not typically the acute ear infection itself that we worry about the most – it’s the fluid that stays beyond the ear infection that can cause some significant problems.

Anytime we have fluid in the middle ear space (behind the eardrum), we have an associated hearing loss due to the fluid. That’s called a conductive hearing loss. It’s not permanent, but it’s bad enough to potentially cause a speech delay or articulation problems if the fluid stays behind both ears. If you can’t hear language, it’s hard to reproduce it. 

It’s extremely important that infants maintain good hearing, so that they can reproduce the language that they hear around them. If a baby has frequent ear infections, she may not have time to clear the fluid before the next infection hits. This may cause long periods of time when she doesn’t hear well. 

We are concerned when children have four or more infections in a six-month period, or when they keep fluid for more than three months at a time. 

Sometimes, an infection can cause a permanent hearing loss, but that is very rare. 

How can parents help children avoid ear infections?

The problem with ear infections is that there are not many risk factors that can be changed. One of the first questions that we ask is, “which one of the parents had ear problems themselves?” There tends to be a strong relationship to parents and children having the same problems, and we can’t change that.

We also can’t do anything about the way this condition affects different genders – boys have a few more problems than girls. 

Age is another big risk factor, with children less than 18 months having the highest rates, and we can’t change that. Ear infections are a secondary infection from the usual viral illnesses that cause runny noses. So, ultimately, if parents can keep their children from getting sick, they can reduce the chance of an ear infection. That’s usually very hard to do.

The same is true of most other ENT type infections. The healthier a child is, the less likely he will need to see us. 

To schedule an appointment with a Children’s of Mississippi ENT, call 601-815-4368.

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