Follow these tips to keep your child comfortable after a day at the pool, lake, or beach

Baby Sitting on Beach / How to Make Sure that Swimmer's Ear Doesn't Strike Your Child This Summer
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June 21, 2017

Happy summer! For many people, the coming of this season means vacations to beach or lake houses for fun in the sun and water. For children, however, playing in the water can result in a painful infection known as swimmer's ear.

This infection—known to healthcare professionals as otitis externa—happens when water stays in the ear after swimming. According to Texas A&M College of Nursing Clinical Assistant Professor Kara Jones-Schubart, this creates an environment fertile for bacteria.

Though Jones-Schubart notes that there are other ways the condition can develop, this is the most common one.

Symptoms and Treatment

The following symptoms can indicate the presence of swimmer's ear:

  • Redness, warmness, and pain in the outer ear
  • Tenderness in parts of the ear when touched or moved
  • Feelings of fullness, itchiness, and irritation in the ear

It is relatively simple to treat most cases of swimmer's ear: doctors usually prescribe eardrops, though a combination of drops and oral antibiotics may be necessary in severe cases.

Prevention

As with other infections, the best way to handle a swimmer's ear infection is to avoid getting it in the first place.

"Many people who swim often realize that ear plugs are extremely beneficial when you go swimming," Jones-Schubart said. "There are also some over-the-counter solutions that you can use to help rinse out everything in your ear and break up any blockage."

Other prevention tips include:

  • Using a hair dryer on a low setting to dry out ears after swimming
  • A homemade preventive eardrop solution can be used before and after swimming for children without punctured eardrums. This solution would consist of mixing one part white vinegar and one part rubbing alcohol and then pouring one teaspoon into each ear, letting it drain out again afterward
  • Avoiding putting foreign objects—including cotton swabs—into the ear
References: Consumer Affairs: "Tips for preventing swimmer's ear in children," Texas A&M University: "Keeping Swimmer's Ear at Bayles."