So Your Child Needs Grommets…. A Guide

Last week, E underwent the procedure to have grommets fitted. I initially wrote about my worries about him needing this procedure because words like “general anaesthetic” and my tiny toddler (who appears all the tinier when such things are mentioned) played on my mind. E has had chronic ear infections since he was a few months old. At times I’ve described him as a “walking ear infection”.

For all but one of these infections (and we’re into double digits), he’s needed an antibiotic or two to kick it fully – not ideal on his little developing immune system. So the procedure in my mind, while scary, was wholly necessary to rid my boy of his painful and incessant infections. As with most things in this parenting lark, I went hunting online for information, and while I found forum posts and answers from other parent friends useful, the focus on information about these things was aimed at the child patient rather than the parents. So using what I’ve learned, here’s a bit of a guide to the whole grommets procedure, in the hopes that some other parent will find it of use when trying to prepare for it with their child.

So Your Child Needs Grommets -

So, lets begin with the basics –

What are Grommets, and who generally needs them?

A grommet is a plastic tube which is slipped through a tiny incision in the eardrum. It acts as a pressure-equalisation tube for the patient providing a temporary, extra Eustachian tube to allow bacteria and fluid to drain from the middle ear.

Conditions such as glue ear can cause fluid build up to happen behind the ear drum. This fluid can become infected, causing ear infections. The fluid can also affect hearing, which can in turn impact speech in younger children. Grommets which can clear this build up of fluid can help with restoring full hearing and therefore help with speech issues.

How are grommets given to my child?

The procedure to insert grommets is performed under general anaesthetic, generally as a day patient in hospital. Your GP will have referred you to an ENT specialist who will perform the procedure.

How long does the whole thing take?

Generally the procedure itself takes about 15-20 minutes, with an average stay in hospital being about 4 hours after the child comes back from recovery. This ensures that any potential complications are minimised and taken care of before you leave.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

Before the procedure, it will be necessary to have your child fasting. If it’s a morning procedure, it’s likely that this fast will be from midnight the night before, for an afternoon procedure you may be allowed to give them a light breakfast/drink early in the morning. This was definitely the part I was dreading most – E has recently started eating circles around himself, and starts his day at just after 6am shouting for “brekkie Mama, Brekkie”.

As his procedure was booked in for around 2pm, I was told he could have a bottle of almond milk at 8am but nothing after that. As it turned out, we tried to keep up the distractions, some extra Paw Patrol, answering requests for food with “in a little while”. He wasn’t too happy about it, but we got through it, thanks in part to him taking a nap around 11.30 and sleeping until just after 1pm.

We had to check in at 10.30am for his afternoon procedure, and headed into a reception area to go through a list of questions to get all of his medical details confirmed. We were then led down to the Children’s Ward and shown to the playroom, where we waited to be assessed by the nurse. She went through a list of questions to ensure that he was good to go with the procedure, took his temperature and did a basic medical assessment.

The nurses gave us a very cute hospital gown with lots of boats and anchors on it, we dressed him in that and his nappy. We were told just one of us could bring him down to theatre. I headed down with him. Nurses and doctors requested confirmation of different details, most of which had been taken by the initial nurse on admission. At this point he started to get a little bit upset, which I put down to him having just woken up, and being out of sorts.

I gowned up to enter theatre, E was put on the table and he started to get very upset when the pipe for the anaesthetic was put infront of his face. This was the part which I found most upsetting – all I could do was hold his hand and pray that the doctor’s reassurance that he would be unconscious in another ten seconds (longest ten seconds of my life!) were accurate. After he (finally) gave in to the sedation, I was removed from the theatre and told to go downstairs for a coffee. I joined himself back in the Children’s Ward and headed to the canteen for some much needed chocolate. It wasn’t a good diet day.

About 25 minutes later, we got a call down to say E was out of recovery and that we should come up to bring him down. Himself went up to bring him down and I stayed down in the ward waiting. E was upset, crying, hysterics for about an hour and a half after the procedure, pausing momentarily for a bottle. After receiving his feed of toast, he did perk up a fair bit, though he was a bit more clingy than he normally would be. Within two hours he was happy enough, and after the cannula was removed from his foot (seeing it was distressing him) he was right as rain, headed back to the playroom.

We had to stay around until 7pm to ensure there were no ill effects from the anaesthetic, but happily we were free to go from then on.

So what happens after? Is there anything we have to, or have to make sure not to do?

We were given an aftercare sheet which the nurse went through with us. She advised us to take care with bathing, to ensure his ears were protected with cotton wool so that they wouldn’t get wet. She also advised us that due to the fluid being drained, the world would be a louder place for a few days until he got used to it so to expect some possible reaction to the sensitivity!

One side effect which wasn’t mentioned to us, and is likely a result of the fasting, is that our toddler has NOT stopped eating since we left the hospital. Bottomless pit doesn’t even come close to describing him, it’s like he’s afraid we will stop feeding him! There are far worse outcomes than that in the world though, can’t argue with a healthy appetite!

Grommets will usually fall out by themselves after a number of months and the child will not even be aware that this has happened. If they don’t fall out spontaneously within 18 months, they will be removed by the ENT surgeon in a simple, painless procedure. The tiny hole left in the eardrum after the removal of grommets will then heal itself.

This was our experience with having grommets fitted with our toddler – a few days later, he’s right as rain, as if nothing happened. Hopefully yours will go just as smoothly!

For more information about the grommets procedure, take a look here.



Aside from medical procedures, this Mammy thing has upped my knowledge on a lot of stuff. Here’s 10 Things I Learned As A New Mammy – I’d love to hear what your discoveries were!



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