Sink or Swim: Learning to Spot Swimmer’s Ear

Are your kids in and out of the pool all summer? If you find that your child is complaining about a sore or itchy ear, they might have otitis externa—better known as swimmer’s ear. Otitis can occur when water stays in the ear after swimming, creating an environment for bacteria and fungi to grow causing infection.

How can I tell if my child has swimmer’s ear?

If your child is complaining about the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with your ENT right away.

• Muffled hearing or loss
• Full or plugged-up sensation in the ears
• Drainage from the ear
• Itchy ear
• Pain when touching the ear lobe
• Redness of the outer ear
• Swollen ear canal
• Swollen glands in the neck

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear can be caused by a number of things. For example, it can occur when fungi or bacteria that grow in the ear canal. Humidity and damp conditions are just a couple of the common causes for swimmer’s ear. Other potential causes include:

• Injury to the ear canal
• Dry skin in the ear canal
• Foreign object in the ear canal
• Excessive ear wax
• Rough cleaning of the ear canal
• Skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis

How is swimmer’s ear diagnosed in children?

The physician will ask about questions about your child’s general health and what symptoms they are experiencing. In most cases, a visual examination of the ears will be performed using a lighted instrument called an otoscope. Then a determination will be made if the infection is in the also in the outer ear or the middle ear. In addition, a culture of the ear drainage may be taken to determine the best method of treatment.

How is swimmer’s ear treated?

Your ENT will create a treatment plan based on your child’s age, symptoms and general health. Some treatment plans may include antibiotic ear drops, corticosteroid ear drops, pain medicine, and keeping the ear dry. If properly treated, swimmer’s ear can clear up in 7-10 days.

If your child is complaining about a sore ear, contact your ENT today to determine a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.