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What is ‘Swimmer’s Ear?’

Dive into tips for keeping your child’s ears healthy after swimming 

Summertime is approaching, and many families are looking forward to days filled with swimming and water play. However, frequent exposure to water can sometimes lead to an irritating and painful condition known as swimmer’s ear.” In this month’s blog, we will explore what a swimmer’s ear is, ways to recognize symptoms, and how to prevent it. If your child experiences persistent ear discomfort, consulting a pediatric ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist is always a good idea.  

Understanding Swimmer’s Ear: What is It?

Swimmer’s ear, medically known as acute otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal, the tubular structure that goes from the outside of the ear to the eardrum. Unlike middle ear infections that occur behind the eardrum, swimmer’s ear is caused by moisture trapped in the ear canal, providing a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.

Recognizing the Symptoms: When to Be Concerned

The first sign of swimmer’s ear is usually itchiness inside the ear, followed by increasing pain that might worsen when you tug on the earlobe. As the condition progresses, you may notice drainage of a yellow or white pus-like fluid. In severe cases, the pain can become quite intense and may even affect hearing temporarily. If these symptoms persist, it’s crucial to get medical attention. 

The First Line of Defense: At-Home Care 

For mild symptoms, over-the-counter isopropyl alcohol eardrops are designed to dry out the ears and can sometimes alleviate the problem. However, if symptoms persist for more than 48 hours or worsen despite athome treatment, consult a healthcare provider. Do not insert cotton swabs or any objects into the ear, as this can worsen the condition and push bacteria and fungus further into the ear canal. 

When to Consult a Pediatric ENT

If your child experiences recurrent episodes of swimmer’s ear or if the condition doesn’t improve with standard treatments, it may be time to consult a pediatric ENT. These specialists can conduct a thorough ear examination and may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal ear drops tailored to your child’s condition. In extreme cases, oral antibiotics or even minor surgery to drain the ear may be necessary. 

Tips for Prevention: Keeping Those Little Ears Dry

Preventing swimmer’s ear is often as simple as keeping the ears dry. Here are some tips: 

  1. Use a towel to dry ears immediately after swimming.
  2.  Tilt the head to both sides to allow water to escape from the ear canals.
  3. Consider using over-the-counter isopropyl alcohol ear drops that can help evaporate excess moisture.
  4. Teach children to avoid putting their heads fully underwater in hot tubs, where bacteria levels are often higher. 

 

Bottom Line: Early Detection and Prevention Are Key 

Swimmer’s ear is an easily treatable condition when caught early, but can cause significant discomfort and complications if ignored. Parents should educate themselves and their children about the importance of keeping ears dry and be alert for the signs of an infection.

Schedule A Consultation 

Does your child have recurring episodes of swimmer’s ear, or is their condition not improving with standard treatments and you believe your child is suffering from swimmers ear infection,  schedule an appointmentonline at or call us at to schedule a consultation. 

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