Hello moms and dads!
It’s summertime and that means lots more swimming and pool time, which is fun but also means an increase in swimmer’s ear for little ones.
Don’t fret. We are here to help.
It can be hard to tell if your child has a traditional ear infection or is suffering from swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is a type of skin infection on the outer ear canal. Typical ear infections occur in the middle ear behind the ear drum. BOTH are very painful for some children depending on the shape of their ear canal and the amount of swelling or skin irritation.
Swimmer’s ear occurs when water gets caught in the ear canal, irritates the area and bacteria moves in. It can build up and cause pain. While typically people think of swimmer’s ear happening in pools it is actually more frequent from ocean or lake water, and can occur after baths if water gets trapped in the ear.
There are many indicators that the child has swimmer’s ear – some similar to an ear infection (ie: pain, difficulty swallowing, irritation when moving jaw or yawning). However, there should not be a fever with swimmer’s ear.
Ibuprofin can be used cautiously to help quell the pain. Some natural treatments that can be used at home include:
- Wrap a warm onion cut in half in a clean cloth and place it on the child’s ear
- Kid’s ear oil with garlic (garlic is a natural antibiotic): Kids Ear Oil
- Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol, 1 part apple cider vinegar (put a few drops in the affected ear twice a day, once at bedtime)
- Have your child lay on a slightly warm heating pad with a towel on it so as not to burn the ear. The heat can help dry out the canal and allow for healing.
- Add a probiotic for gut health as there is evidence a healthy gut can help the body clear infections.
PLEASE NOTE – Do not use rubbing alcohol in an already sore ear. This can be painful for an already hurting ear. If your child has swimmer’s ear and it starts to cause pain then use white vinegar instead of alcohol.
You may need a prescription antibiotic if none of the above treatments work. Please know that I am here if you need an assessment and a prescription medication. If there is swelling or redness behind the ear, this can be an indication that the infection is spreading, causing conjunctivitis, and you’ll likely want to begin antibiotics as soon as possible.
If your child seems prone to swimmer’s ear infections and tends to get them often, there are some things you can do to prevent them from occurring. Essentially these preventatives help dry out the ear canal so bacteria won’t fester. Try only one (don’t do them all) but choose the one you feel most comfortable with:
• A few white vinegar drops in the ear after swimming or bathing.
• A couple of rubbing alcohol drops in each ear after swimming or bathing.
• A couple drops in each ear of apple cider vinegar and alcohol mixed together (equal amounts).
Armed with these tools, we hope you continue to enjoy the great outdoors and have a fantastic summer at the beach and pool. Continue soaking up that sunshine and fresh air!
- Dr. Kenneth Akey