Swimmer's ear, which is referred to in the medical industry as otitis externa, is when the external ear canal becomes inflamed, usually as a result of an infection. Children with swimmer's ear will usually tug, scratch, or pull on their ear or they will complain of pain or itching in their ear. It is called swimmer's ear due to the infection commonly occuring after water gets into the ear after swimming or bathing.
Causes of Pediatric Swimmer's Ear
There are several potential causes that result in your child's outer ear canal becoming wet, leading to swimmer's ear. These can include swimming, bathing, showering, or just being in other wet and humid conditions. Other conditions that can develop into swimmer's ear, but don't relate to water, include:
- Improper cleaning of the ear canal
- Damage to the skin lining the ear canal
- Foreign object or buildup of earwax in the ear canal
- Skin conditions or dry skin that affect the ear canal
The excess water or damaged skin in the ear canal present a healthy environment for bacteria or fungus to grow. If the harmful bacteria or fungus take root, the ear can become infected and inflamed, resulting in swimmer's ear.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Pediatric Swimmer's Ear
Pediatric swimmer's ear will usually have your child showing the following symptoms:
- Ear turning red
- Itching, pulling, or tugging at an ear
- Abnormal drainage from the ear
- Swollen ear canal, which can muffle or restrict hearing
- The feeling of pain or pressure around the infected ear
Pediatric swimmer's ear is diagnosed through reviewing symptoms and health history of your child and a physical examination. The examination will usually involve the doctor using an otoscope, which is a lighted instrument, to look into your child's ear for signs of infection in the outer ear canal.
Treatments for Pediatric Swimmer's Ear
Treatment for swimmer's ear will vary based on your child's age, health, and severity of the symptoms. Treatment for pediatric swimmer's ear can include the following:
- Pain medicine to reduce the symptoms
- Attempting to keep the ear dry / not letting additional water get into the ear canal
- Antibiotic ear drops
- Antibiotic ear drops mixed with steroids