The Medical Specialist Your Child May Need to See

The Medical Specialist Your Child May Need to See

Your child might benefit from seeing an ENT doctor -- here’s why.

By Judy Koutsky

“My son Aaron wasn’t a good sleeper,” confesses Kelly, a mom of three kids who lives in Brooklyn, New York. “He had problems going to sleep and staying asleep. He woke up frequently during the night, and when I’d sneak in to check on him, he’d be snoring like an old, fat man — and he was 3. Then, he’d wake up in the morning looking exhausted, like he pulled an all-nighter.” She told her son’s doctor, but he seemed to brush aside her concerns. Then, a friend suggested she take her son to an ENT -- an ear, nose, and throat doctor. After a thorough exam, the doctor diagnosed Aaron with enlarged adenoids.

“Having someone understand what I was going through and take me seriously was huge,” says Kelly.

Would your child benefit from seeing an ENT, like Kelly’s did? Here, the details on this specialist.

What is an ENT? ENT physicians are otolaryngologists -- doctors who are specially trained in treating patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck.

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What types of conditions do ENT doctors treat? The simple answer is many. From hearing loss to allergies and sinus infections, ENTs treat a variety of issues that affect kids. One reason many parents see an ENT is for sleep problems. “Sleep problems, especially in childhood, can have negative effects on a child's development and health,” says Dr. Michel Nassar, attending physician at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York and assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “They can affect speech and learning processes as well as a child's energy levels and wellbeing.”

Several factors play into sleep problems, including issues with the adenoids and tonsils. “ENT specialists play a pivotal role in the diagnosis and management of these problems,” says Nassar. “A thorough conversation with the parents is essential in revealing key clinical symptoms and reaching an accurate diagnosis. A specialist can also offer both medical and surgical options to alleviate these factors and improve sleep.”


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Other reasons to see an ENT specialist? “Attention deficit with a suspicion of hearing loss, recurrent ear or throat infections, as well as nasal congestion and runny nose for extended periods of time,” says Nassar.

Why not just see a pediatrician? Not only do ENTs focus on the ears, nose, and throat, but they are also surgeons. ENT specialists work closely with family physicians to provide care for kids experiencing issues like sleep apnea. Family physicians refer those children to an ENT based on the severity of the symptoms as well as on the success of simple measures like nasal saline spray, nasal steroid spray, and humidifiers. The ENT specialist can offer further diagnostic options.

How do you know if your child should see an ENT? Talk to your family doctor about the concerns you have and bring up the idea of seeing an ENT. Most physicians work closely with ENT specialists. Or if you have a friend whose child had a similar issue and benefited from seeing an ENT, it’s not a bad idea to make an appointment with that specialist. From speech issues to hearing loss to allergies, your child may benefit from seeing an ENT specialist.

Have you ever seen an ENT?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of, AOL Parent and Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

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