Swimmers Ear

What is swimmers ear?

Swimmers ear is an infection of the external ear canal known as otitis externa. This is different from an inner ear infection known as otitis media caused by congestion from a cold or allergies. This infection is in the middle part of the ear inside the tympanic membrane.

What are the signs and symptoms of swimmers ear?

This type of infection can be very painful. Your child may have itching in the ear canal, redness around the opening of the ear, or white or yellow discharge from the ear canal. Pushing on the tragus (the small flap of skin by the opening of the ear canal) can produce severe pain.

How is swimmers ear diagnosed?

A clinical diagnosis will be made in the office by examining the outside of the ear and using the otoscope to visualize the inside of the ear canal.

What causes swimmers ear?

Bacterial and/or fungal infections are usually the cause of the infection and inflammation in the ear canal.

What are the treatment options for swimmers ear?

Topical eardrops are highly effective with minimal side effects. The drops usually contain a combination of an antibiotic and a steroid. This helps clear the infection and inflammation. The drops should be applied into the affected ear and the child should keep his/her head to the side for 3-5 minutes. Treatment is for 7 days. Pain should resolve in 48 hours after starting drops.
Swimming should be avoided until the child is pain free for 24-48 hours.

How can swimmers ear be prevented?

After swimming dry the ears with a towel. Avoid sticking any object into the ear canal such as q-tips. Swimmers ear products are sold over the counter or using a few drops of equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar into the ear after swimming which can dry out the ear canal.

How can the pain be controlled?

NSAIDS such as ibuprofen are useful to minimize pain.