Children over 4 with glue ear (known as otitis media with effusion) could now be treated with a simple non-surgical option involving blowing up a balloon with their nose, a study has found.
In the first large community study of the autoinflation technique which uses a nasal balloon to equalise middle-ear pressure and promote drainage, British researchers found it was simple, low-cost and could be taught to young children with a reasonable expectation of compliance.
The trial involved 320 children with recent glue ear, who had fluid in one or both ears, from 43 family practices in the UK.
Children who did autoinflation 3 times a day for 1–3 months were more likely than those in a control group receiving usual care to have normal middle-ear pressure, measured by tympanogram, at both one month and three months and to have fewer days with symptoms.
“We have found the use of autoinflation in young, school-aged children with otitis media with effusion to be feasible, safe and effective in clearing effusions, and in improving important ear symptoms, concerns and related quality of life over a 3-month watch-and-wait period,” the authors write. Possible adverse events, including common colds and earaches, were infrequent and mild.
In an accompanying commentary, Professor Del Mar, from Bond University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, commented, “Now, at last, there is something effective to offer children with glue ear other than surgery”.
Parents interested in this technique should see their GP to see if it is suitable for their child – and to have a demonstration. This technique should not be attempted without instruction.