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What to Do if Your Child Gets Swimmer's Ear: Prevention and Treatment - Legacy ER

  • Category: Conditions
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Jay Woody
What to Do if Your Child Gets Swimmer's Ear: Prevention and Treatment - Legacy ER

Warm weather is upon us, and parents are gearing up for the season of swimming. But what happens when your child gets a painful ear infection from spending too much time in the water? Unfortunately, a swimmer’s ear is a common infection of the ear and can be quite painful if left untreated. 

But what is a swimmer’s ear, and how can it be treated?

Defining a Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection caused by bacteria or fungi. When water gets trapped in the ear canal, these organisms grow and multiply due to the moist environment, eventually causing pain and inflammation. Swimmer’s ear is most common after swimming, but it can develop from other water-related activities such as showering or bathing.

Swimmer’s ear is often described as a mild skin irritation, which may first feel like a minor swelling or blockage until it develops into ear pain. The bacteria that cause swimmer’s ear grows on and around the Eustachian tube, where moisture gets trapped.

Swimmer’s ear isn’t contagious, but it may be painful and cause lasting damage if it occurs frequently and is not adequately treated.

Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to a swimmer’s ear and overall ear pain. Keeping your child’s ear canals clean and dry can help prevent swimmer’s ear. There are two ways to do this: use a clean, dry towel to pat the ears dry after a swim, and use earplugs when in the water.

Some additional preventative measures for children include:

  • Keep the ears clean after water activities by drying them with a cloth or towel
  • Use earplugs when swimming to prevent water from getting into the ear canal
  • Rinse your ears with over-the-counter ear drops to clean them

Antibiotics and steroids usually help relieve earaches and discomfort. However, if the ear is red, swollen, and painful, it might be infected.

How to Treat Swimmer’s Ear

Since the moist environment of the ear canal allows bacteria to grow, antibiotics are the most common and effective treatment for swimmer’s ear. 

In most cases, the swimmer’s ear is treatable with antibiotics, steroids, anti-fungal medication, or solutions that can alleviate the discomfort caused by inflammation. Doctors will prescribe these treatment options to address the infected area and begin the healing process.

To further protect the ear as it heals, it might be necessary to carefully clean the area of discharge, earwax, and flaky skin. If the ear canal is completely blocked, a doctor may utilize a wick made of cotton or gauze to help the ear drain.

It’s important not to let a swimmer’s ear go untreated as its symptoms are not just painful, they can be quite damaging.

When to See a Doctor About Swimmer’s Ear

If your child has a swimmer’s ear, it can feel itchy, painful and swollen. They also may experience hearing loss, popping or crackling, and water retention, leading to drainage or inflammation in the ear canal.

You may also notice a small lump inside your child’s ear canal filled with pus that can be swollen and painful. This is a clear indication that there is an infection, and a doctor needs to examine the ear before it gets worse.

The ear canal lining is thin, so it can quickly get infected and inflamed. In addition, if the swelling and pain are present in just one ear, your child may be at increased risk for developing an infection in other areas of the head, including the tissue around the outside of the ear.

Helping Your Child Cope With Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear can be painful and irritating, especially for young children. As a parent, it can be challenging to watch your child suffer. Fortunately, there are treatment options for ear infections, especially over-the-counter options that temporarily alleviate the pain until a physician can see them. For example, using acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease discomfort and be a solution until a doctor can prescribe antibiotics.

However, if you feel your child’s condition is a true emergency, call 911. If your child is experiencing a swimmer’s ear, seek medical attention immediately by visiting Legacy ER & Urgent Care at any time, 24 hours a day, year-round.

Legacy ER & Urgent Care is here to meet your medical care needs by providing affordable pricing and quality care. As part of Intuitive Health’s innovative hybrid model ER and urgent care system, patients are only billed for the level of care they receive from professional and highly trained medical staff. With a total of six centers located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, emergent and non-emergent care is accessible and transparent with a focus on superb customer service. 

Find out more about Legacy ER & Urgent Care by visiting Legacy ER & Urgent Care has six convenient locations in the DFW area: 

  • Allen – Legacy ER & Urgent Care is located at 1310 W. Exchange Pkwy Allen, TX 75013, and may be reached at 972-526-5819.
  • Coppell – Legacy ER & Urgent Care is located at 330 S Denton Tap Rd Coppell, TX 75019 and may be reached at 469-702-9917.
  • Frisco East: Legacy ER & Urgent Care is located at 16151 Eldorado Pkwy Frisco, TX 75035 and may be reached at 972-526-7009.
  • Frisco West: Legacy ER & Urgent Care is located at 9205 Legacy Dr. Frisco, TX 75033, and may be reached at 972-526-7020.
  • McKinney – Legacy ER & Urgent Care is located at 2810 Hardin Blvd McKinney, TX 75072, and may be reached at 972-573-6688.
  • North Richland Hills: Legacy ER & Urgent Care is located at 8950 N. Tarrant Pkwy North Richland Hills, TX 76182, and may be reached at 817-663-1247