How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear this Summer

As the weather gets warmer, more people head to the pool or lake for a swim. Summer is, unfortunately, the most common time for kids (and even adults) to pick up ear infections due to the increased humidity and water exposure. Your kids may be prone to “swimmer’s ear”, or otitis externa, where they get pain, debris, and redness in their ear canal. Luckily there are ways to prevent swimmer’s ear and save your child that unpleasant experience that happens every summer.

Wear earplugs

Earplugs are a relatively easy tool to prevent excess water accumulation in the ear canal. You can purchase them over the counter or even have custom-fit ones made for you or your child. Swimming ear bands, like this one, are also helpful and can be used alone or over earplugs to keep them in place. Our office can fit your child for a basic set of earplugs or you can have personalized moldings made with our audiologist.

Dry the ear after water exposure

After swimming, have your child shake their head on each side to help excess water drip out. Pat the outside of the ear canal with a towel but do not go deep in the canal.

Do not use Q-tips or any object in the ear canal

Do NOT use any foreign object in the ear canal to try to soak up the water. Many people think daily Q-tip use after showering or swimming is necessary, however, this often dries out the canal and can possibly injure the canal or eardrum. A dry canal with no ear wax is at high risk for infection because bacteria love dry, dead skin. Ear wax is a great lubricator for the ear canal so it is actually good to have some ear wax.

Avoid putting alcohol or other OTC drying agents in the ear

Many websites suggest placing drops of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in the ear canal every time after swimming. This dries out the canal too much and is not helpful in the prevention of swimmer’s ear.

Avoid swimming in dirty water

Public swimming pools or dirty lakes are breeding grounds for certain bacteria like pseudomonas. If your child is swimming in these areas, it is good if they avoid dunking their head under the water.

Act early

If you suspect your child may have picked up swimmer’s ear, call our office right away. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:

  • Ear pain
  • Bright red ear that may be warm/tender to touch
  • Debris in the ear canal
  • Swollen ear canals
  • Hearing loss

The best treatment plan for swimmer’s ear is the removal of ALL of the debris from the canal (often with a suction tool) and the use of antibiotic/steroid drops in the ear.

Schedule a Consultation

If you would like to learn more about earplugs for your child or suspect your child may have swimmer’s ear, call our office at 512.601.0303.

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Posted in: Ear and Hearing Care

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