Swimmer’s Ear in Children

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is an inflammation caused by an external ear canal infection. Otitis externa ear, usually caused by bacteria, may also be caused by fungi. Water trapped in the ear canal during swimming may let bacteria and fungi grow.

What Causes Swimmer’s Ear in Children?

Swimming, trapped water in the ear canal, or humidity may lead to the development of swimmer’s ear. Other causes of swimmer’s ear include:

  • Rough cleaning of the ear canal
  • Injury to the ear canal
  • Dry skin in the ear canal
  • A foreign object in the ear canal
  • Excessive earwax
  • Eczema and other kinds of dermatitis

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear 

Symptoms of swmmer’s ear includes:

  • Redness of the outer ear
  • Itching in the ear
  • Pain, especially when touching or wiggling the ear lobe
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Swollen ear canal
  • Muffled hearing or hearing loss
  • Full or plugged-up feeling in the ear

How is Swimmer’s Ear Diagnosed?

Your pediatrician will examine your child’s ears, nose, and throat using an otoscope and refer you to see a Pediatric ENT Specialist. The ENT Specialist will look for an infection in the middle ear. Infection often doesn’t occur in swimmer’s ear; however, some children may have infections of the middle ear and swimmer’s ear. 

Your provider may take a culture from the ear drainage. 

Treatment of Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear often clears up in 7 to 10 days. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotic ear drops
  • Corticosteroid ear drops
  • Pain medicine
  • Keeping the ear dry

Complications of Swimmer’s Ear

Complications of swimmer’s ear include:

  • Short-term hearing loss.
  • Inflammation.
  • Recurring ear infections.
  • Bone or cartilage damage.
  • Outer-ear infections.
  • Infections from the ear to the bones of the head or skull.

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