By our Smarty friends at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.
With your kids heading to the pool this summer, now is a good time to remember that swimmer’s ear is an important health issue to think about. What is swimmer’s ear and how is it treated?
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. It is most often caused by bacteria in water that stays in the ear after you or your child finishes swimming. The moist environment is ideal for bacteria and sometimes mold to grow. In addition, disrupted skin from scratching, cotton swab use, foreign bodies in the ear, or even eczema will increase the risk of outer ear infections. Because summer is the time most children spend in the water, it’s most likely to occur then. However, people can get swimmer’s ear all year long.
Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent your children from getting swimmer’s ear in the first place. Make sure your child swims in clean water, particularly well-chlorinated pools. Natural bodies of water, such as lakes and ponds, are more likely to have higher concentrations of the bacteria that causes swimmer’s ear. Earplugs are helpful for keeping water out. Make sure your children dry their ears, but don’t clear out their earwax. Earwax can be protective and help reduce the risk of swimmer’s ear.
If they do get swimmer’s ear, your children may show symptoms include itching in the ear canal, light redness, mild discomfort, some drainage, and mild hearing loss.
However, if left untreated swimmer’s ear can progress to a moderate to severe infection with severe pain radiating from the ear or a blocked ear canal. It can even spread to the outer ear itself, or even the face.
Fortunately, swimmer’s ear is easy to treat. Most often, your child will just need topical antibiotic eardrops, to stay out of the water for a week, and to keep the affected ear dry. That said, if your child shows symptoms of moderate to advanced swimmer’s ear, this is a more urgent problem and may require an ENT specialist. The doctor would likely gently suction the ear or put a cotton wick in the ear to aid in topical eardrop administration.
If swimmer’s ear does not respond to treatment in 3-5 days, there may be a fungal infection or a middle ear infection that requires oral antibiotics. Special patient populations, such as diabetics, can in rare cases develop severe infections and require long-term antibiotics.
“Swimmer’s ear can be extremely painful and uncomfortable,” CEENTA ENT doctor Bobby Silver, MD, said. “Fortunately, treatment is generally successful with improvement in symptoms within 24-48 hours when treated appropriately.”
Let summer be fun and illness-free. If your child does contract swimmer’s ear, don’t hesitate to make an appointment at CEENTA.
Dr. Silver practices in CEENTA’s Matthews office. To schedule an appointment with him or any of CEENTA’s ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000.