This Earache Is a Summer Bummer
Swimmer's ear can turn a day at the pool into a washout. Protect your child from this painful condition with advice from pediatrician Alan Greene, MD, author of The Parent's Complete Guide to Ear Infections.
Symptoms: The outer ear becomes red, itchy, and extremely tender. Chewing is particularly painful, and you may see pus in your child's ear.
Causes: When the ear canal stays damp after swimming, bacteria can grow and lead to an infection called acute otitis externa -- which is different from typical middle-ear infections. Regularly cleaning your child's ears with cotton swabs can also remove protective wax and scratch the lining of the ear canal, which increases the chance of infection. Kids who've had swimmer's ear before, as well as those who have eczema or seborrhea, are at higher risk.
Treatment: Antibiotic eardrops (some formulations require just one dose a day) are more effective than oral antibiotics, according to new expert guidelines, and they don't lead to antibiotic resistance.
Prevention: Make sure your child dries his ears after swimming by tilting his head to each side while pulling on his outer ear. Wearing earplugs or a bathing cap pulled down over the ears also helps keep water out. Don't stick cotton swabs in your child's ears.