Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is an inflammation of the external ear canal. Swimmer’s ear is caused by fungi or bacteria. Water that stays in the ear canal during swimming, for example, may let bacteria and fungi grow.
Many different things can make it more likely for your child to get swimmer's ear. Swimming or being in other wet, humid conditions are common causes. Other possible conditions that may lead to the development of swimmer's ear include:
Children are more likely to get swimmer’s ear if they:
The following are some tips to help prevent swimmer’s ear:
Another tip to help dry the ears is to use a hair dryer set to the low or cool setting. Hold the dryer at least 12 inches from your child’s head. Wave the dryer slowly back and forth. Don’t hold it still.
Your child’s health care provider may recommend drops to help dry the ears.
Swimmer’s ear can cause the following symptoms:
The symptoms of swimmer's ear may look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her health care provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s health care provider will ask questions about your child’s health history and current symptoms. He or she will examine your child, including the ears. The provider may use a lighted instrument called an otoscope to look in your child’s ear. This will help the provider know if there is also an infection in the middle ear called otitis media. Although this infection usually does not occur with swimmer’s ear, some children may have both types of infections.
Your child’s health care provider may also take a culture of the drainage from the ear to help figure out the best treatment.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Swimmer’s ear, when properly treated by a health care provider, usually clears up within seven to ten days. Treatment may include:
Complications of swimmer’s ear include:
Our pediatric otolaryngology experts diagnose and treat a wide range of pediatric ear, nose and throat disorders.
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