Your Child's Recovery
Tympanoplasty (say "tim-PAN-oh-plass-tee") is surgery to repair a hole in the eardrum. The surgery may have been done to improve hearing or to stop frequent ear infections that did not get better with other treatments.
Your child may feel dizzy for a few days after surgery. If the doctor made a cut (incision) behind your child's ear, the incision may be sore. Your child may have ear pain for about a week. Some bloody fluid may drain from your child's ear canal and the incision.
Your child's ear will probably feel blocked or stuffy. Your child may not be able to hear as well as before. This usually gets better as the eardrum heals and the foam packing or ointment dissolves. The packing will dissolve about 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.
If your child has stitches, they may dissolve on their own, or the doctor may need to take them out. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
It may take time before your child's hearing gets better. Your doctor will test your child's hearing after the ear has healed. This may be 8 to 12 weeks after surgery.
While your child is healing, it's important that water does not get in the ear. Your child will also need to avoid strenuous exercise and other activities that may put pressure on the eardrum. This includes flying in an airplane, swimming, and playing contact sports.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for your child at home?
- See that your child rests when feeling tired. Getting enough sleep will help your child recover.
- Try to have your child walk each day. Start by walking a little more than the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount your child walks. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
- Help your child avoid sudden head movements and bending over for the first 2 or 3 days after surgery. These actions may make your child dizzy.
- Your child should not ride a bike, play running games, or take part in gym class for about 2 to 4 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
- For 2 to 4 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay, do not let your child lift anything heavy. This may include a backpack, a larger dog, or a bicycle.
- Do not let your child swim, play contact sports or fly in an airplane, until your doctor says it is okay. These activities could prevent the eardrum from healing correctly.
- Be sure that water does not get in your child's ear for 1 to 3 months, or until your doctor says it is okay. Your child can take baths, but do not let your child shower. Do not let water get near your child's ear until the packing is removed. When your child bathes, plug the ear with a cotton ball lightly coated in petroleum jelly to keep water out. Do not use plastic earplugs that go into the ear canal while your child has packing in the ear. Use only the earplugs that your doctor recommends.
- Most children are able to go back to school or their normal routine in about 1 to 2 days. But they should not play hard or do things like sports for about 3 weeks.
- Your child can eat a normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, try giving your child bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- Have your child drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
- You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart any medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
- Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- If your doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
- Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
- Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless your doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- If you think your child's pain medicine is making your child sick to the stomach:
- Give your child the medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Your child may have a cut (incision) with a dressing over it. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- Until your doctor says it is okay, do not let your child blow their nose. If your child needs to sneeze or cough, do not try to stop it. Tell your child to open their mouth and to not pinch the nose.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
- Your child has severe trouble breathing.
- Your child has sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughs up blood.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child bleeds through the bandage.
- Your child is sick to the stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
- Your child has pain that does not get better after taking pain medicine.
- Your child has signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the ear or incision.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
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