A study estimates that dealing with repeated middle ear infections, tympanostomy tubes (more commonly known as ear tubes) are often recommended and placed by ear, nose and throat surgeons. The tiny tubes, placed surgically in the eardrums, work by channeling drainage out of the ear.

Worry About Ear Drainage

Common concern parents have is around blood or other drainage coming from their child’s ears in the days following ear tube surgery. The problem with the tubes, but the drainage is actually a sign that the tubes are functioning properly.

Early ear drainage like this is usually not a cause for concern, says pediatric otolaryngologist Brandon Hopkins, MD. In the weeks and months following ear tube placement, drainage is an indicator of an ear infection and is often easily treated with topical antibiotics.

Child's Ear Drainage

If your child’s ear drainage does become chronic, it’s important to follow up with the surgeon. People recommend additional treatment. This may include ear suctioning, topical antibiotics or powders, or an oral antibiotic.

Ear Infection

Drainage will likely occur whenever your child gets an upper respiratory or ear infection until the tubes fall out. This typically happens between eight and 14 months after surgery in most cases.

Types Of Ear Drops To be Used After Surgery

Your child’s surgeon likely will recommend using ear drops to help keep your child’s tubes clear of any blood or debris that may appear in the first week after surgery. Saline or antibiotic drops both works equally well when a child’s ears are not actively infected at the time of tube placement. After surgery, he advises his patients to use five drops, twice a day for a week.

Even when you use the drops, it’s fairly common to see ear drainage in the month after surgery. Up to 16% of children experience some drainage, according to a Cleveland Clinic study that compared the effectiveness of saline drops versus antibiotic drops. When you see drainage, that’s a sign that your child’s ear tubes are helping prevent painful fluid buildup.

Ear tube surgery helps with future infections

After surgery, the child gets an upper respiratory infection or an ear infection. The idea is that instead of that infected fluid staying behind the eardrum, it will have a way to escape. That is the whole purpose of ear tubes. That is the whole purpose of ear tubes.

However, many infections are viral, which means they won’t improve with antibiotic drops and drainage will run its course. In the case of bacterial infections, antibiotic drops have been shown to shorten drainage duration.

When drainage occurs, clean your child’s ears with a washcloth to help keep his or her ears dry and prevent irritation of the skin. The bottom line: Drainage and the use of ear drops are generally needed after ear tube surgery. But the surgery should help keep fluid from building up and causing painful earaches.