Special to Iredell Free News

Now that we’re in the heat of summer, you and your family may be looking to cool down at the pool, beach, or lake. But with swimming and other fun water activities comes the risk for swimmer’s ear, which is especially common in children.

What is swimmer’s ear?

If your child is experiencing ear pain after spending time in the water, they may have swimmer’s ear, which doctors call otitis externa.

Dana Short

“Swimmer’s ear is an inflammation of the external auditory canal (outer ear canal) and the auricle of the ear (outer ear),” said Dana Short, a family nurse practitioner at Family Care Center of Taylorsville.

Swimmer’s ear occurs when moisture in the ear canal causes the growth of certain bacteria. This moisture also causes the skin that lines the ear canal to soften, which is similar to the white, swollen skin that forms under a wet band-aid. Bacteria can invade this softened skin and cause a painful infection.

This type of ear infection is seen most often in summertime, when swimming is common, but your child does not have to swim to get swimmer’s ear. According to Short, swimmer’s ear can also be caused by ear trauma, like the use of cotton swabs or if your child puts a foreign object into their ear.

What are the symptoms of swimmer’s ear?

“The key physical finding of swimmer’s ear is pain when touching the tragus,” said Short.

The tragus is the little “bump” in front of your ear.

Other symptoms include ear pain, itchiness, ear drainage, a sense of fullness in the ear, muffled hearing, and redness and swelling in the outer ear. A low-grade fever may also be a symptom.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your child is too young to tell you what is wrong, you may notice them messing with their ears or sticking their finger in their ear. As the infection progresses, chewing may be painful. Sometimes the ear canal itches before the pain begins.

“If left untreated, swimmer’s ear may lead to hearing loss or a severe infection,” said Short.

How can you treat swimmer’s ear?

Treatment of swimmer’s ear depends on how severe your child’s infection is.

According to Short, mild swimmer’s ear can usually be treated with over-the-counter acetic acid drops.

If at-home remedies do not help or if your child has a fever, increased pain, and drainage that is green or yellow, you should visit your child’s primary care provider. They will typically provide you with prescription ear drops. In severe cases, oral or IV antibiotics may be needed.

Make sure to keep water out of your child’s ear while undergoing treatment.

Schedule an Appointment

Short practices at Family Care Center of Taylorsville, located at 1668 NC Highway 16 South, and is accepting new patients. She treats patients of all ages – from infants to elderly. If you would like to schedule you or your child’s next appointment with Dana Short, FNP-C, call the office at 828-632-9736.

About Iredell Health System

Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Mooresville; two urgent care centers; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,800 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The Health System’s second campus, Iredell Mooresville, is home to the area’s only 24-hour urgent care facility, as well as an ambulatory surgery center, imaging center, rehabilitation services, and physician practices. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.