If you've enrolled your child in a competitive swim team year round, then he or she will be more prone to otitis externa, or swimmer's ear. Learn the signs and take a look at how to treat and prevent this issue so that your child can focus on the fun of swimming:
Why are Swimmers More Prone to the Condition?
After swimming in the public pool, your child may not towel off thoroughly enough. Extra moisture then remains in their outer ear canal. This moisture makes a great breeding ground for both fungi and bacteria. Symptoms of swimmer's ear include
swelling of the outer ear and canal
drainage or wax blockage
redness around the ear
partial hearing loss
pain when the ear is touched
How Can the Condition be Treated?
Take your child to an ENT specialist or an audiologist for a diagnosis. He or she will use an otoscope to look into your child's ears to examine the infection. The doctor may also take a swab of ear discharge to be analyzed in the lab. This analysis will help the doctor know what kind of infection your child has and what medications to treat it with.
Usually, swimmer's ear is treated with ear drops that are prescribed by your ENT. Sometimes the canal is so swollen that the ENT doctor will have to leave a cotton soaked with medication into the ear and leave it for some time. Your child may also be prescribed a painkiller to reduce the swelling and pain.
While swimmer's ear is a very common issue that is treated, it is important that you take your child in as soon as possible. Swimmer's ear can become chronic and even cause permanent hearing loss if not taken care of. If your child has allergies, has gotten both bacterial and fungal infections, or has small canals that are difficult to drain, then he or she needs to be extra careful about swimmer's ear.
Can the Problem Be Prevented Even with so Much Swimming?
Even if your child spends a lot of time in the pool every week, swimmer's ear is very preventable. Be sure that after they get out of the pool that they tilt their head both ways to drain water out. Use a towel to dry the outer ear thoroughly. These items can actually puncture the ear canal, push wax and debris further in, and make it easier for infection. If your child still feels water in their canal, go to the facility's restroom and use a hair dryer on low for a more thorough drying.
If your child is still getting swimmer's ear, you'll want to ask an audiologist about making custom-fitting earplugs. Do not use pointed objects, like q-tips, to clean out the ears. Make sure your child also wears a swim cap to help keep their earplugs in. Contact an audiology specialist in your area for more information on this condition—especially if your child is having hearing loss as a symptom.