Nothing says summer like pool days, beach trips, water parks and swimmer’s ear. For many kids, swimmer’s ear is a nuisance they’ve come to accept as part of summer, but it doesn’t have to be that way!
Understanding Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear (the medical term is otitis externa) is very different than the run of the mill ear infection, and these infections are much more common in the summertime.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection along the ear canal, while inner ear infections are in the middle part of the ear, just inside the eardrum. Swimmer’s ear is not only annoying but also excruciatingly painful (speaking from personal experience!) and it can even hurt just from touching the outer ear or pulling a shirt off overhead.
With so many summer activities revolving around water, getting swimmer’s ear can put a real damper on your child’s fun. But the great news is, there are steps you can take to minimize infections or prevent them from happening altogether!
Preventing Swimmer’s Ear
The best medicine is prevention! If your child has a history of swimmer’s ear and you would like to keep it from happening again, there are three steps you can follow to keep your child’s ears healthy all summer long.
#1 Keep Ears Dry
Dry the ear canal as thoroughly as possible after swimming or bathing. Use a towel or paper towel to absorb what you can, then tip the head sideways to allow gravity to help drain the rest out. You can use a hair dryer if you have time. Hold it about 8 to 10 inches away from the ear on very low heat.
#2 Use A Preventative Mixture Of White Vinegar and Rubbing Alcohol
Only use this mixture if the eardrum is intact (do NOT use if your child has ear tubes or a ruptured eardrum), and if you are uncertain, it is much better to be on the safe side and not use this treatment unless you see your pediatrician first. The mixture is 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol. This helps the ear canal to dry more quickly and may also prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that can cause swimmer’s ear. Administer about 1/2 to 1 tsp of the mixture into each ear and let it drain back out. Do this after a swim or bathing.
#3 Minimize Ear Wax
If your child is prone to a lot of wax build-up, follow the guidance of your pediatrician to keep the wax at bay. Wax will hold water in the ear canal, and a moist ear canal becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Do not use Q-tips or any other foreign object to dig out earwax.
Don’t panic if your child does end up getting swimmer’s ear, but please seek medical care right away. It is essential to be seen by your doctor and have it treated with eardrops. But, by following the steps outlined above, you should see a decrease in swimmer’s ear, or say goodbye to it forever!