5 tips to avoid swimmer's ear
After a long day playing in the pool, we all know the feeling of a little extra water lingering in our ears. For some kids, all that moisture in the ear canal can break down and irritate the skin, allowing bacteria or fungi to get in. That’s when discomfort turns to pain and becomes an infection called acute otitis externa – more commonly known as swimmer’s ear.
“We will see lot of swimmer’s ear this time of year,” says Lisa Ziemnik, MD, program director of Dayton Children’s urgent care and Kids Express. “Kids will complain of ear pain or water stuck in the ear, as the main signs. However, there are several other symptoms including the ear feeling full or uncomfortable, itching in the ear canal, red or swollen outer ear, enlarged or tender lymph nodes around the ear, and/or discharge from the ear.”
While it’s named for swimmers, anything that breaks down the skin in the ear canal can cause an infection. This includes things like dry skin, eczema, using ear swabs or other objects to clean the ear or even irritating the ear canal by scratching it too much.
“Swimmer’s ear does need to be treated by a doctor with antibiotic ear drops to keep the pain from getting worse and the infection from spreading. Before seeing the doctor, a warm washcloth or heating pad against the ear and acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the pain.”
If your kids are swimming this summer, Dayton Children’s recommends these five tips to help avoid swimmer’s ear:
- Wear a bathing cap, ear plugs or custom fitted swim molds while swimming to prevent water from entering the ear.
- Use a towel to dry ears well.
- Tilt head and hold each ear facing down to allow water to drain from the ear canal; pulling the ear lobe in different directions will also enable water to drain out more easily.
- Using a hair dryer can help move air within the ear canal. Use the lowest heat and fan settings and hold the hair dryer several inches from the ear.
- Do not try to remove ear wax, it helps protect the ear canal from infection. Consult your pediatrician if you think the canal is blocked by wax.
There are over-the-counter ear drops to use after swimming however you should consult your pediatrician before using those or a home mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Seek medical advice if your child’s ears become red, flaky, swollen, painful or have drainage.