When 2016 began, I was counting my blessings. Baby C was approaching her 3rd birthday in June and aside from a few sniffles here and there and two rounds of fairly mild Hand, Foot, Mouth disease, we really hadn’t dealt with any illnesses in her nearly 3 years.
You can guess where this story is going. As soon as I dared to think that we’ve been lucky, Baby C came down with a sinus infection, which quickly followed her first ear infection. She handled both like a champ, but as she went through her first ever course of antibiotics, we noticed that her symptoms weren’t really getting much better. After a re-check with her doctor, we found that the ear infection was still lingering, despite a full course of antibiotics, and she was still plenty congested.
It wasn’t until early May – nearly 3 months after the sinus infection first set in – that Baby C really began to feel like things were easing up. In that time, we went through 4 different antibiotics, had a ruptured ear drum, used more saline than we can count, and had begun using a prescription allergy medication Singulair and an allergy nasal spray to help alleviate her congestion. In that time, I took her to an Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist. Having myself been a kid who struggled with a lot of ear infections and sinus issues, I went to an ENT regularly as a kid, so I wanted to be proactive, given how long Baby C’s symptoms were taking to get rid of.
Thankfully the ENT didn’t see anything alarming during our first visit in April, but she did note that Baby C’s adenoids – pieces of tissue located in the back of the nasal passages – are enlarged. She didn’t note them as drastically large, so we decided to take a wait and see approach. Summer was coming, the risk of illness was dropping, and it was very possible that we just got unlucky with the sinus/ear infection issue over the spring.
Unfortunately by August, we were back for a visit with the ENT. Between the two visits, Baby C continued to sound constantly sniffly, and in July had another mild ear infection and a buildup of fluid in her ears. We continued giving her daily Singulair, Zyrtec and Nasacort, and even though I’m not at all anti-medication, I was becoming weary of having her on constant medication and constant worrying about any slight sniffle turning into a bigger problem.
This time, the ENT did recommend that we have Baby C’s adenoids removed.
Because the adenoids are located behind the nasal passages, when enlarged they can trap mucus rather than allowing it to drain. In Baby C’s case, the ENT explained, the adenoids were likely causing the continued sniffling, and because kids’ heads are still little and all the passages are so close together, the trapped mucus was traveling into her ears and creating an environment for infections there. She wasn’t a good candidate for ear tubes because her ears were being affected simply by being close to her problematic nasal passages, rather than being a problem themselves, so an adenoidectomy would be a better option than tubes.
We ended up scheduling the procedure just about 2 months after the ENT consult, which gave me plenty of time to overthink and obsess over every detail. Although I had my own adenoids out when I was Baby C’s age, and our ENT explained that the procedure is very simple and has virtually no downtime for kids, I was still nervous about all the unknowns. It would be her first time under anesthesia, there could still be side effects, and like most Type A over-planners, I spent an unnecessary amount of time Googling all the things on adenoidectomy. I had been mildly tense leading up to the day, and was worried that I was going to pass on my tension to Baby C, so I was creating even more anxiety for myself trying not to be anxious.
The day before the procedure, I spent a few hours once again looking at side effects, and ended up getting completely worked up, to the point of tears, about a rare side effect of the procedure that can cause speech issues (which, even if they do happen, is incredibly rare and are fixable in the short term). I let myself have the moment, and by the next morning, it seemed as though all that anxiety worked itself out of my system and I was able to be the calm self I wanted to be day of.
We intentionally decided not to talk to Baby C about what was going to happen until the day before the procedure, and intentionally scheduled the procedure at an outpatient center rather than a hospital. The center had a playroom and didn’t look like a hospital, which we were particularly mindful of since Baby C had to see both me and Mr. Carrot in the hospital this year and we were concerned she might get worried if she had to go to one too. The night before, we told her that we were going to the doctor, which she actually enjoys doing, and that they were going to give her a mask and she would feel a little sleepy and that when she woke up, her throat might hurt a little but all the “snuffles” in her nose would be cleaned out.
Whether it was our explanation or just her naturally fun-loving, curious nature, I’ll never know, but everything went as smoothly as we could have asked for the day of the procedure.
We thankfully had an early arrival time – 7 AM – so Baby C wouldn’t have had the chance to notice that she didn’t get to have breakfast or anything to drink that morning. She got a special hospital gown to wear but was allowed to keep her pajama bottoms and socks on, and since we had to fill out all the paperwork weeks in advance, the intake process took all of 10 minutes and we spent a half hour in the playroom, waiting for her doctor.
Once they were ready for her, we got to walk into the operating room together, where Baby C got super curious about all the lights and machines. She hopped up on the bed without any resistance, and the nurse almost immediately put the sedation mask on her, which Baby C had been expecting and even began pointing out how cool it was, but the sedatives took effect so fast that she never got to finish her sentence. Once she was under, I went into the waiting room with Mr. Carrot, and less than 20 minutes later, we were sent into the recovery room, where Baby C was already awake and waiting for us.
The only real issue that we ran into with the whole experience was that Baby C came out of anesthesia before Mr. Carrot and I got to the recovery room, so she got very freaked out by the unfamiliar faces and place and was hysterical when we arrived. I scooped her up from the nurse who was holding her, and we sat in the recovery room chair for 15-20 minutes while she calmed down. Disorientation is a very common side effect of anesthesia – I remember myself being under anesthesia a few years ago for a procedure and feeling very confused when I came to, so I could only imagine how much worse it can be for kids – but once she saw us and the medication wore off, she became calmer. We also brought reinforcements, including her favorite stuffed toy, and an iPad full of distractions to help her focus on something else. We were in the car and heading back home by 10:00 AM.
In the end, everything worked out exactly as the ENT had described to us. Once the kiddo was out, the ENT used a cauterizer to basically burn the excess tissue off. There were no incisions nor stitches to worry about, and the only real side effect we noticed was some hoarseness immediately after the procedure and a bad breath for a few days as the tissue was beginning to heal. This is a common and not at all harmful side effect, and our ENT prescribed a mild antibiotic to help relieve the smell, but we ultimately didn’t even use it. Baby C seemed a bit weak when we were driving home, but it turned out to be more because she hadn’t eaten since the previous night’s dinner. Although we were advised to give her soft foods, she insisted on gobbling up the bacon from the breakfast a friend of ours brought for us, and once there was food in her stomach, she was literally jumping on the couch a few hours after we got home. Because our appointment was a few days before the Columbus Day holiday, we took off the couple of days leading up to the weekend to give her time to recover. In hindsight, she probably could have easily returned to school a day or two after the procedure, but it was nice to have a little extra time at home too. We didn’t have any activity limitations, so she was out and about a day later on the playground.
We are currently almost a month after the procedure, and it’s probably too soon to tell whether it’ll have a long-term on her sinus issues, but I’m optimistic. The perpetual sniffliness she’s had since spring is gone and she’s breathing much more smoothly already. We’ve still kept up with the Zyrtec since allergies do affect her to some degree, but not nearly with the same daily consistency we had previously. I’m not at all deluding myself that this procedure was the end-all of future colds and sniffles, but I’m hopeful (especially since the ENT said that the adenoids ended up being larger than she originally thought they were during the initial exam) that this did give her sinuses more room to drain and clear.