Part I: Dr. Shaw Talks About Kids and Ear Infections

“Caring for people is my calling” ~ Dr. Travis Shaw

Parents never want to hear that their child has to have a medical or surgical procedure – even if it is considered “routine” by many experts. Dr. Travis Shaw of Stony Point Surgery Center knows how this feels because he is a physician and a parent too. sat down with Dr. Shaw to learn more about his practice, and we were impressed not only with is professional accomplishments, but his incredibly friendly ‘bedside manner’.

A New Kind of Practice

Dr. Shaw started his ENT practice with a focus on providing optimal healthcare services in an inviting and friendly environment. After spending 2 1/2 years teaching English in Japan he turned his attention to medicine. Inspired by the needs of patients in Kenya with facial deformities, he chose to specialize in otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery. His practice welcomes new patients of all ages for ENT consultations and reconstructive surgery.

He explains his philosophy in setting up his practice as different from many traditional doctor’s offices.

“I want to make a personal connection with patients and their families. I try to not only find out what’s going on with the patient, but how it’s affecting his or her life, and the lives of others in the family. Putting it in perspective is important and when I know patients on a personal level, it’s much easier to understand their concerns and needs,” he explains.

An interesting perspective from Dr. Shaw is his desire to share more about himself, in addition to learning about his patients and their families. His father was a Pulmonologist and he watched him compassionately interact with patients while making hospital rounds. He says he was enamored with how his father took such great care of people and how people really seemed to know and like his father too.

“I adapted this focus on relationship-building into my own style of practicing medicine,” Dr. Shaw reflects.

Treating Children

Dr. Shaw’s practice revolves around all issues related to ear, nose, and throat as well as sleeping problems. He treats adults and children. With two small children of his own – ages 3 years and 17 months – he recognizes how parents feel when their children are hurting.

We talked about one of the most common childhood ailments – and Richmond moms can certainly relate to this one – ear infections! Whether it’s an inner ear infection, or an outer ear infection often referred to as ‘swimmers ear’, Dr. Shaw is an expert on the subject.

“When it comes to ear infections, children not only suffer but so do their parents. Painful ears cause children not to sleep and to spend lots of time crying and uncomfortable. When a child has three or more painful ear infections, it is usually time to see a specialist. Lots of pediatricians and general practitioners refer their young patients to me for evaluation. Although surgery for ear tubes is not the first course of action, ear tubes are the most commonly performed surgical procedures for children,” Dr. Shaw explains.

A closer look at how the ears become infected gave us a better understanding of why so many children get ear tubes inserted every year. Dr. Shaw explained that when we are born, the Eustachian tube which drains from the back of the ear, equalizes pressure in the ear. It is typically short and horizontal in children and this often causes germs to flow back into the ear. As we get older, this tube gets longer and more vertical allowing it to drain better.

The natural drainage pathway from the ear into the nose is the cause of most all ear infections. Tubes can help open up and elongate this passageway to help avoid germs and infections. And they relieve a lot of pain for children who experience chronic ear infections.

Once ear tubes are inserted, most children never experience problems. The tubes naturally fall out and do not have to be surgically removed.

When to See a Specialist

“Ear infections are excruciatingly painful for children and treating them early is important. Children who cry for no apparent reason, pull at their ears, don’t eat well, or seem uncomfortable a lot of the time may have an ear infection. Some ear infections can be treated with antibiotics but there is a lot of controversy around this too.

A lot of today’s literature and clinical trials recommended waiting 4-5 days after recognizing an ear infection before taking antibiotics. Some doctors recommend treating the pain with just Tylenol and eardrops first because antibiotics may not always be the best answer,” emphasizes Dr. Shaw.

Your pediatrician or physician will make a recommendation based on his/her expert opinion. He also reiterates the importance of always following your physician’s recommendations when it comes to treatment or referral.

Making the Decision that is Best

Making a decision for your child to undergo a surgical procedure is not easy. The biggest risk for having ear tubes inserted is obviously related to the anesthesia.  Every situation is different and it’s important to weigh all options and talk with your doctor before making the decision about ear tubes.

As with any surgical procedure requiring a general anesthetic, there are risks of complications. A child is usually asleep for less than 5 minutes for the procedure and it is considered a safe procedure for children.

Dr. Shaw provided some valuable information on the process he follows when evaluating a child and determining the best treatment method:

  • ‘Watchful waiting’ is often the first course of action with a first-time ear infection. He often takes this approach because it may not be a recurrent issue.
  • Once children are referred to Dr. Shaw for a more extensive evaluation and treatment options, it’s important to discuss ALL of the options with the parents or caregivers. Providing information about the options and success rates for each option, risk of any surgeries, and other factors will help parents make the best decision for their child. As with any decision, the benefits must be worth undergoing the procedure and risks.
  • Taking a conservative approach is most often the best way to go – seasonal changes in winter and moving into warmer months may make a difference. Jumping into having ear tubes inserted is not Dr. Shaw’s first approach (depending on the severity and frequency of chronic ear infections).
  • If the recommendation and decision is made to move forward with the procedure, Dr. Shaw makes sure the parents know what to expect every step of the way. Stony Point Surgery Center also offers a state-of-the-art facility where procedures are conducted that allow parents to be as involved and present as possible throughout the procedure.

Swimmers Ear

Inner ear pain is different from outer ear pain – known as swimmers ear. With swimmers ear, the outer part of the ear is infected from water that does not properly drain or dry and it becomes stagnant causing problems. Outer ear pain can sometimes be even more painful than inner ear infections. Simply touching the outer part of the ear indicates that it is very tender and painful.

Outer ear infections usually affect older children – a 10-year old may wake up in the middle of the night screaming with pain in the ear. It is a very obvious pain. Inner ear is usually problematic for children 2 and under.

Swimmers ear is usually treated with eardrops and that’s it. There are some ways to avoid swimmers ear that include using a hair dryer on a comfortable temperature to dry out the ear after swimming. Dr. Shaw cautions parents not to use eardrops or other home remedies if children have had an ear tube inserted though – it’s always best to check with your doctor first.

A Caring Practice

Dr. Shaw has certainly established a practice that revolves around positive relationships and caring for his patients. His years of mentoring by his father and experiences of traveling around the world have given him insights into patient care that offer outstanding quality and service.

“I have a passion to help those who need it. My experiences of living in foreign countries, participating in mission trips, working different types of jobs, and seeing people suffering has given me a glimpse of humanity that fuels my passion,” says Dr. Shaw.

After spending an hour with him, we could not agree with him more!

Watch for Part II in our series of articles with Dr. Shaw. In our upcoming article, he will discuss the pain, frustration, and treatment options of dealing with allergies and sinus infections – and nobody has more allergies and sinus infections than Richmond!

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Rhonda is the mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to five wonderful grandchildren – and our only grandmother on staff. She spent 25 years in corporate healthcare managing prenatal and disease management programs. She is the Content Manager for Richmondmom and contributes her expertise as both a mom and grandmother – while sorting out the many opportunities for our valuable advertisers.

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