Ear infections are one of the most common illnesses in young children. They are caused by a viral or bacterial infection behind the ear drum, often preceded by a cold. These infections can be very distressing to the child and its parents, especially when they recur frequently. The acute ear pain, fever and illness keep the family up at night and disturb the daily routine of nursery and work. This is why UCL is researching the most effective treatments, and it wants input on parent priorities.

Treatment of ear infections is meant to relieve ear pain and fever, cure the infection and prevent or delay further episodes. Doctors and parents in the UK currently rely on painkillers and antibiotics. Since antibiotic treatment may have side-effects, like diarrhoea and nappy rash, and does not prevent new ear infections, a research team of GPs, ENT surgeons and paediatricians at UCL are looking into other treatments.

Ear infections are closely related to glue ear. In glue ear the fluid in the middle ear behind the ear drum causes temporary deafness and this can affect behaviour and language development. One of these could be ventilation tubes, also called grommets. These are tiny plastic tubes that are put into the ear drum by an ENT surgeon. They drain the fluid from the middle ear and allow air to come in, so they reduce the chance of a new ear infection and improve hearing. While the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance for glue ear as to which children will most likely benefit from grommets (http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG60/PublicInfo/pdf/English), this is not yet the case for ear infections.

A current research project at UCL aims to relieve the burden of ear infections in young children by looking at alternatives to antibiotics. The team therefore wants to work with families of young children suffering from ear infections, or those who relate to these families, to make sure the research focuses on what is important to the parents and children concerned.

They want first-hand experience and opinion to help design and then carry out the research. No particular knowledge or skills are needed, just a willingness to give your opinion and the desire to get involved. Initially parents can simply offer input in a phone interview of around half an hour at their convenience, or they can form part of an on-going focus group which would meet approximately four times a year for two hours.

If you are interested or would like more information contact Helen Blackshaw, ENT Clinical Trials Programme Manage on ent-trials@ucl.ac.ukor phone 07591 087209.

Watch and Learn
Seeing is Believing (SIB) has been developed by specialist Carry Gorney as a new approach to working with the parent-infant relationship. Carry is a family therapist (and video artist) who lives locally. She has been involved in programmes for infants and children for many years, working in both the NHS and private practice. Her speciality is supporting families and individuals to overcome difficulties by identifying stories in their past and present lives which highlight strengths and abilities. STEEP (Steps Toward Effective, Enjoyable Parenting) was an earlier approach, evaluated at the University of Minnesota and now piloted and evaluated in the NHS.

Carry has now developed the Seeing is Believing programme as a preventive interventionfor new parents. It can take place anywhere the parents feel safe. Although SIB can be used across a wide age range and with both mothers and fathers, Carry has used it predominantly with young children and infants, and their mothers.

SIB is made up of two sessions of about one hour. At the first session play time is videoed to capture ‘sparkling moments’ when children and parents are communicating well. The video is edited and during the second session clips showing successful interaction are shown to the parent, telling a positive story about the parent-child relationship. These form a basis for discussion of skills, ability, knowledge and intention, so creating positive and confident stories.

After the sessions parents are provided with a DVD of themselves with their child that documents this understanding (and makes a happy record of time spent together).

The process can be repeated as often as the parent wishes and the video excerpts provide parents with concrete evidence to support the idea that they are doing a good job.

From September Carry will be offering Seeing is Believing to parents in the TPPSG. If you are interested in finding out more please contact carrygorney@gmail.com, tel: 07988 340 984 or see www.carry-gorney.co.uk. Cost is £100.