How to Prevent and Treat Swimmer's Ear

School is out and it is getting hot outside. Summer is here!

For many of us, that means spending a lot of time keeping cool at the pool, but it can also mean that your child could come down with a bout of swimmer's ear.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the skin that lines the outer ear canal. When moisture or water sits in the ear for a prolonged period of time, it can encourage the growth of bacteria.

It’s a common infection that can be very painful, but it can be prevented.

Symptoms

In spite of prevention efforts, your child might still get swimmer’s ear. Watch for these signs and call your pediatrician if they appear:

  • Pain when the ear is touched
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Difficulty hearing

Treatment

Most swimmer’s ear infections will need topical antibiotic drops to heal the skin. Ask your child’s pediatrician when your child can resume swimming; the American Academy of Pediatrics generally recommends that children with swimmer’s ear should avoid submerging their heads for seven to 10 days.
 
If your child’s swimmer’s ear keeps recurring, special drops may be needed to prevent infection of the ear canal. Your pediatrician may prescribe them or refer your child to an otolaryngologist.

Prevention

Here are three top tips to keep your ears healthy while enjoying the water this summer.

  1. Keep your ears dry, especially after swimming or bathing. Tip your head to the side to let all the water drain, repeat on the other side. If necessary, you can carefully use a hair dryer set on the coolest setting to completely dry the ear canal.
     
  2. Maintain a healthy amount of ear wax. Yes, that’s right! A healthy amount of wax is good for the ear! Ear wax plays an important role in preventing ear infections. Wax has natural germ-fighting agents that protect the delicate skin in the ears. Consult your primary care provider or your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned that either of you have too much wax.
     
  3. Be gentle to the skin in your ear canal. Avoid scratching or vigorous cleaning with Q-tips or other objects that can cause small tears and damage the skin. Keep your ears dry and use a drop or two of olive oil in your ears each day to help lubricate the skin.

Have fun in the water!
 
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Article was provided by Sandra L. Toensing, P.A., a pediatric ear, nose and throat provider in Carilion Clinic’s Department of Otolaryngology