Summer Safety

Swimmer’s Ear

By: Parker Rogers, MD

Summer is great for enjoying water activities like the lake, swim team, and pool parties. All that increased water exposure brings fun and can occasionally bring ear trouble with it. Parkside Pediatrics is always here to help! Here is what you need to know:

What is a swimmer’s ear, and when should we go to the doctor?

Swimmer’s ear, or ‘external otitis,’ refers to inflammation in the external ear canal and is most often caused by a bacterial infection. In the summertime, children may complain of earaches when they are not sick, and symptoms may include cough, congestion, runny nose, or fever. If a pus-like substance comes out of the ear or there’s pain when a child is pulling on their ear lobe, this could be a sign they might have a swimmer’s ear. If your child has these symptoms, we recommend scheduling an appointment. Your pediatrician can prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacteria and help calm down the inflammation in the ear canal. Usually, kids don’t need oral antibiotics, but a doctor may prescribe them if they have a fever or other symptoms. Once children are diagnosed with swimmer’s ear and start antibiotic drops, they typically improve quickly. However, avoiding swimming for a week is safest to allow the ear canal to heal.

How can you prevent swimmer’s ear?

The best way to avoid this pesky ear inflammation is by not letting water sit in the ears after swimming. You can tilt your child’s head to the side with a towel over the ear to absorb the water. Never use Q-tips or cotton swabs, as this could make it worse. Some children with recurrent ear troubles use soft ear plugs for swimming or over-the-counter drying ear drops (usually containing alcohol and vinegar) helpful. Swimmer’s ear is generally treated rapidly and does not cause severe complications, but having your doctor look if your child is complaining of persistent ear pain is a good idea.

Have a great summer and happy swimming!

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