for additional information on Swimmer's
Summer is here, and with it comes carefree days,
sunshine, sand, surf, swimming and often – swimmer’s
Otitis externa, called swimmer’s ear, is an infection
of the external ear canal that frequently occurs during
the summer months when children spend a lot of time in
What causes swimmer’s ear?
When too much moisture in the ear irritates the skin
in the canal, it allows bacteria or fungi to penetrate
causing inflammation and infection. But you don't have
to swim to get swimmer's ear. Anything that causes a
break in the skin of the ear canal can lead to an
infection. Other possible causes of infection include:
Being in warm, humid places
Harsh cleaning of the ear canal
Trauma to the ear canal
Dry ear canal skin
Foreign object in the ear canal
Lack of ear wax
Eczema and other forms of dermatitis
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear
Symptoms of swimmer's ear usually appear within a few
days of exposure to contaminated water or a break in the
skin, and may include:
Ear pain and/or itching, especially when touching or
wiggling the external ear
Swelling in the ear and/or lymph nodes in the neck
A feeling of stuffiness in the ear
Red and scaly skin on the ear
Pain when chewing
Discharge that is clear at first, then turns
The symptoms of swimmer’s ear may resemble other
medical conditions. Always consult your child’s
physician for a diagnosis.
Treatment of swimmer’s ear
When properly treated, swimmer’s ear will clear up
within seven to 10 days. Specific treatment depends on
each case and can include:
Antibiotic ear drops and/or oral antibiotics. A wick
(piece of cotton or foam) may be placed in your
child’s ear if there is a lot of swelling. This
helps the antibiotic drops enter the ear canal and
work more effectively
Corticosteroid ear drops (to help reduce swelling)
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
Keeping the ear dry
Tips for preventing swimmer’s ear
Here are some things you can do to help your child
avoid swimmer’s ear:
Dry ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing. Dry
only outer ear slowly and gently with a soft towel
or cloth – never stick anything inside the ear
smaller than your elbow.
Avoid swimming in polluted water.
Use earplugs designed to keep water out of the ears
Place two to three drops of a mixture of
vinegar/isopropyl alcohol into your child’s ear
after significant water exposure.
Never attempt to clean earwax out of the ears with
cotton swabs, paper clips or hairpins. Using these
items can pack material deeper into the ear canal
and irritate the thin skin inside the ear. You might
also puncture your eardrum.
Avoid substances that may irritate the ear, such as
hair sprays and hair dyes. Put cotton balls in ears
when applying these products.
After swimming, turn the head to the side to drain
water from each ear.
Ask about the chlorine and pH testing program at
your pool to ensure they are adequate for killing
any bacteria or fungi that might be in the water.
posted 07-18-2011 and adapted from the email
newsletter of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
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