Swimmer’s ear…no fun in the summer!
It is swim season and with swimming comes fun but sometimes kids will develop swimmer’s ear….not so fun. We had a few family vacations with a trip to the urgent care for one of the kids with swimmer’s ear!
Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa (big word for infection of the external ear) is an infection in the ear canal. This is different from otitis media or what most parents think of with an ear infection. When the ears have moisture in them, then bacteria is more likely to grow. Sometimes swimmer’s ear occurs more frequently after swimming in lake water that is not chlorinated, but it can happen with pool water or from aggressively cleaning ears with cotton swabs too. (Remember these are a no no!) The ear canal is usually a little acidic with a protective coating of ear wax which helps prevent infection. If water sits in the ear too long and removes the protective wax coating, or the ear canal skin is damaged from cotton swabs or fingers then bacteria can infect the ear canal. The bacteria will cause the ear canal to become red, painful, and swollen.
Kids who have swimmer’s ear usually complain of itching and eventually pain when touching or pulling on the ear. Sometimes kids will complain that their ear is plugged. When the ear canal swells, hearing is decreased. There can be yellow drainage from the ear and occasionally fever. The real clue is the painful outer ear. Trust me, it is painful!
Swimmer’s ear must be treated by a health care provider, it will not go away on its own. There are over the counter drops marketed, but these are for prevention of swimmer’s ear, not to cure it. Your child’s health care provider will most likely provide ear drops for the infection and inflammation. You can also give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You should keep your child’s ear dry until the pain goes away….so no swimming!
You can try to prevent swimmer’s ear by using over the counter drops or by making your own. A few drops of 70 percent alcohol in your child’s ears or a mixture of ½ white vinegar and ½ rubbing alcohol in your child’s ears after swimming will help keep ears dry and prevent swimmer’s ear. Make sure that you dry your child’s ears well with a towel after swimming too…but no cotton tipped applicators to clean or dry ears!
Swimmer’s ear is usually not serious, but it can certainly ruin swimming fun for a week! Try an ounce of prevention with the alcohol and vinegar drops, and hopefully your child can continue to have fun in the water all summer long! Do you have plans for the pool or beach this summer?
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.