Nothing kills summer fun faster than a case of swimmer’s ear. But with the right treatment, kids can be pain-free and back in the water in no time.
Here’s the scoop from Dr. Ettaly Franke Jobes of Chesapeake Pediatrics in Annapolis and Dr. Margaret Turner from Annapolis Pediatrics on how to know if your child has swimmer’s ear, what to do about it and how to prevent it from happening again.
What is swimmer’s ear?
An infection of the outer ear canal (as opposed to an inner ear infection) that is intensely painful whenever the outside of the ear is touched, according to Turner. It is only found in kids who go underwater, so it is rare in babies, she says.
How is swimmer’s ear treated?
Swimmer’s ear generally is a bacterial infection that requires a trip to the pediatrician and prescription topical drops to clear it up, Jobes says. Drops are usually administered twice a day for five to seven days.
Can kids swim with it?
There are two schools of thought on whether kids should stay out of the pool once diagnosed.
Jobes recommends staying out until the pain, swelling or discharge is gone. Turner says she is more lenient. She says that as long as kids dry their ears after swimming and use the drops correctly, they can continue to swim. If it is not better in two days, stay out of the water until it is better, she says.
Children who have ear tubes, however, should stay out of the water until the drainage has resolved, Turner says.
Can swimmer’s ear be prevented?
Use a bathing cap, earplugs or custom-fitted swim molds to keep ears dry, Jobes says. Dry ears after swimming using a towel and moving the ear all around while holding the ear downward. If there is still water in the ear, use a hairdryer on the lowest setting 1 foot from the ear to help dry it out.
For children prone to the infection, use a solution of equal parts vinegar and alcohol after swimming, Turner says.
Jobes also notes that ear wax helps prevent swimmer’s ear, so removing it makes children more prone to it.
By Betsy Stein