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Hot summer days mean more time spent on the beach, at the lake, or by the pool. Unfortunately, summer is also prime time for kids to get swimmer’s ear, or acute otitis externa, an infection that occurs when normal bacteria grows excessively under moist conditions in the ear canal, causing swelling and blockage. It’s possible for children to develop the infection even if they haven’t been swimming. Humidity and sweat can be enough to supply bacteria with moisture to grow. 

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include itchiness, redness, fluid drainage, decreased or muffled hearing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes around the ear or upper neck. Mild cases can be treated at home, but if your child is experiencing moderate to severe ear pain, schedule an appointment with the pediatrician. In many cases, your child will be prescribed antibiotic drops to fight the infection and pain relievers to ease the discomfort. During treatment, avoid swimming and flying, and don’t wear ear plugs, hearing aids, or headphones until the pain or discharge has stopped.

Swimmer’s ear can be a nuisance, and it can be difficult to keep kids out of the water. But if left untreated, swimmer’s ear can lead to recurring ear infections, potential hearing loss, and other complications.

Don’t let swimmer’s ear put a damper on your child’s summer. Consider the following prevention tips:

Keep ears clean and dry

In order to help keep excess moisture out of the ear, it’s important to teach your child or help them to thoroughly dry each ear canal after swimming. First, tip your child’s head to the side until all of the water runs out of the ear. Repeat on the other side. You can also carefully use a towel or hair dryer on the coolest setting to completely dry the ear canal.

Avoid using objects to clean ears

Although it may seem like a simple solution to a blocked ear canal, using cotton balls, Q-tips, bobby pins, and other foreign objects to clean the ear does more harm than good. Removing ear wax can actually lead to more infections, since ear wax keeps the ear canal acidic and helps maintain the integrity of the skin. Cleaning ears with objects can also push material deeper into the ear canal, irritate and break skin inside the ear, or even rupture the eardrum.

Wear ear plugs while swimming

If your child has repeated bouts of swimmer’s ear, wearing ear plugs while swimming can help prevent future infections. Just be sure to purchase ear plugs that fit your child properly and are intended to keep water out of the ear, versus foam ear plugs used to keep noise out or equalise ear pressure.

Hearing Aid Solutions are able to offer swimming moulds for people of all ages. Click here for more information!

Consider using ear drops

There are a few homemade and over-the-counter ear drops you can use after swimming to help prevent swimmer’s ear. However, if you suspect your child may have a ruptured ear drum, don’t put anything in the child’s ears, and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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