Swimmer's ear is an infection of the skin lining the ear canal. This problem is most common among swimmers or children that spend a lot of time in water. If your child has swimmer's ear, he or she may have the following symptoms:
Swimmer's ear occurs when your child's ears have been in the water for long periods of time. When water gets trapped in the ear canal the lining becomes damp, swollen, and prone to infection.
Children are more likely to get swimmer's ear from swimming in lake water, compared to swimming pools or the sea. During the hottest weeks of the summer, some lakes have high levels of bacteria. Narrow ear canals also increase the risk of swimmer's ear. Cotton swabs also contribute to the problem by causing wax buildup which traps water behind it.
Suspect a middle ear infection instead, if your child also has a cold, a fever, and no increased pain with pushing on the ear tab.
With treatment, symptoms should be better in 3 days and cleared up in 7 days.
Your child needs the eardrops prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Run 5 eardrops down the side of the ear canal's opening so that air isn't trapped under the drops. Do this 3 times a day. Move the earlobe back and forth to help the eardrops pass down. Continue using the eardrops until all the symptoms are cleared up for 48 hours.
For mild swimmer's ear, use half-strength white vinegar eardrops. Fill the ear canal with white vinegar diluted with an equal amount of water. After 10 minutes, remove it by turning the head to the side. Do this twice a day until the ear canal gets back to normal.
Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain relief as needed.
Generally, your child should not swim until the symptoms are gone. If he is on a swim team, he may continue but should use the eardrops as a rinse after each swimming session. Continued swimming may cause a slower recovery but won't cause any serious problems.
First, limit how many hours a day your child spends in the water. The key to prevention is keeping the ear canals dry when your child is not swimming. After swimming, get all water out of the ear canals by turning the head to the side and pulling the earlobe in different directions to help the water run out. Dry the opening to the ear canal carefully. If recurrences are a big problem, rinse your child's ear canals with rubbing alcohol each time he finishes swimming or bathing to help it dry and kill germs. Another helpful home remedy is a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half white vinegar. The vinegar restores the normal acid balance to the ear canal.
Ask your healthcare provider if your child should use ear plugs or a swimming cap.
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