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Home >  Information A-ZAll Kids Information Articles Swimmers Ear

Swimmers Ear

A common illness in children is an infection of the ear known as swimmer’s ear. This infection is different from a traditionally known ear infection because it forms in the outer ear, whereas a normal ear infection forms in the inner ear. Since the infection occurs a little differently, and in a different area of the ear, treatment and prevention are different as well. Below is some information for parents about how to avoid their children getting swimmer’s ear, and what to do when they do get it:

• Causes—
Swimmer’s ear was given this common name because of the traditional cause—water in the ear. Many times, children will get water, either from a bath or swimming pool, in their ear and there isn’t enough ear wax to block it from irritating the skin. Then the water gets trapped and causes an infection in the ear canal.

• Symptoms—
Most children who have swimmer’s ear will complain about an itchy ear, as well as pain. You may be able to see swelling when you look in the ear, and often, a child’s pain is made worse by tugging on the earlobe.

• Treatment—
Most of the time, unlike an inner ear infection, children who have an outer ear infection will not have to take any oral antibiotics. Instead, doctors usually prescribe liquid antibiotic drops to be placed in the ear canal. These can sometimes burn when placed in the child’s ear, and if this happens, you can ask your doctor to prescribe a different type of medication. Some types are a little too acidic, so the doctor has backup medication choices in these situations.
Many times part of treatment will be to cleanse the outer ear. This is especially true in cases where there is a lot of drainage, because the infection can spread on the skin. If the infection spreads too much, a doctor may have to prescribe an oral antibiotic after all.

• Prevention—
Prevention can be easily maintained most of the time with just a few key steps. One of the most important is to not clean your child’s ears with q-tips on a regular basis. Unless your child has a need for their ears to be cleaned, you should avoid using these at all. If you have to, it should be a rare occurrence since the wax that you are removing is one of the things that protects your child from getting this type of infection. Another way that you can help your child avoid an outer ear infection is to purchase an over the counter ear drop medication. There are several different kinds, and anything with 2% acetic acid is a good choice. These are meant to be placed in the ear after swimming and can help the water to drain out of the ear canal properly. If this is uncomfortable for your child, or there is any other reason that these won’t work for you, you can prevent water irritation by having your child use ear plugs any time they will be swimming.

• Repeat infections—
If your child has swimmer’s ear on a regular basis, a trip to the doctor is definitely in order, because it could be some other type of infection that is causing the problem, such as eczema or a fungal infection.

Copyright 2013. All educational materials are the sole property of Kid First Internet and are available for the benefit of our parents. Duplication or use of any material requires the express consent of Kids First Internet.

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