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Swimmer's Ear in Children

Swimmer's ear, which doctors call otitis externa, is an inflammation of the external ear canal. It occurs when water gets into the ear—usually during swimming or bathing—and does not properly drain. When that happens, the canal can become irritated and infected.

Youngsters with this condition will com­plain of itching or pain in the ear, the latter particularly when the head or the ear itself is moved. As the canal swells, hearing will decrease. The infected ear may ooze yel­lowish pus.

Your doctor will diagnose otitis externa after examining the ear canal with an oto­scope. He or she may treat it with prescrip­tion eardrops. Sometimes you will need to insert a gauze wick into your child's ear to make sure the drops reach the site of the swelling. If it is needed, your physician will demonstrate this procedure. Also, try keep­ing your child's ear canal as dry as possible during the healing process; that means de­laying washing and shampooing until the inflammation has disappeared.

Once a child has had a swimmer's ear in­fection, you should try to prevent future episodes. To help avoid them, your young­ster should place drops in the ears after swimming—either a 70 percent alcohol solu­tion or a mixture of one-half alcohol, one-half white vinegar. Also, dry the ears with a towel immediately after swimming or bathing.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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