Summer is here, which means a lot of swimming and a lot of Swimmer’s Ear. Here at Children’s Hospital we tend to see a lot of this condition and want to offer parents helpful information on how to treat and better yet, prevent swimmer’s ear altogether.
What is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear is an inflammation of the external ear canal. Swimmer’s ear is caused by bacteria or fungi. Water that stays in the ear canal during swimming, for example, may let bacteria and fungi grow. Many different things can make it more likely for your child to get swimmer’s ear. Swimming or being in other wet, humid conditions are common causes. Other possible conditions that may lead to the development of swimmer’s ear include:
- Rough cleaning of the ear canal
- Injury to the ear canal
- Dry skin in the ear canal
- Foreign object in the ear canal
- Too much earwax
- Skin conditions such as eczema and other kinds of dermatitis
Is my Child at Risk for Swimmer’s Ear?
Children are more likely to get swimmer’s ear if they:
- Go swimming for long periods of time, especially in lake water. Less likely in appropriately maintained recreational pools or ocean.
- Failure to remove excess moisture after swimming
- Injure the ear canal, such as cleaning it too often or scratching it
- Use hearing aids, earphones, or swimming caps
- Have skin irritation from allergies or other skin conditions
- Narrow ear canal
Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
Look for the following symptoms if you suspect that your child has swimmer’s ear:
- Redness of the outer ear
- Itching in the ear
- Pain, especially when touching or wiggling the ear lobe
- Drainage from the ear
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Swollen ear canal
- Muffled hearing or hearing loss
- Full or plugged-up feeling in the ear
How to Treat Swimmer’s Ear
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Swimmer’s ear, when properly treated by a healthcare provider, usually clears up within 7 to 10 days and may include:
- Antibiotic ear drops
- Corticosteroid ear drops
- Pain medicine
- Keeping the ear dry
Dr. Shang’s Tips for Preventing Swimmer’s Ear
- Use ear plugs for swimming or bathing.
- Gently clean your child’s ear canal.
- Dry ears well, especially after swimming.
- Don’t use Q-tips to clean the ears.
Another tip to help dry the ears is to use a hair dryer set to the low or cool setting. Hold the dryer at least 12 inches from your child’s head. Wave the dryer slowly back and forth. Don’t hold it still.
Come see us, we’re here to help
If you think your child might have swimmer’s ear, please make an appointment with one of our pediatricians who can diagnose whether or not your child does indeed have swimmer’s ear and provide the best course of treatment. Click here to find a doctor>>
About Dr. Shang
Dr. Sharon Shang is a pediatrician at Children’s Pediatrics, Westbank-Marrero. She earned her medical degree from Peking University Health Sciences Center in Beijing and completed residency at Tufts Medical Center in Boston Massachusetts. Dr. Shang chose her specialty because she gets to work with a fairly healthy population that gets an acute problem and then gets better. “I also appreciate that there is a variety that comes from having patients of different ages. You need three different approaches to address the same problem in a two-month-old, a five-year-old and a 14-year-old.”