Summer fun in the lake or pool can later turn into pain for your child if they develop swimmer's ear. It can be especially hard to diagnose in young children that aren't very verbal yet, since the early symptoms may just seem like expected behavior from a tired child. The following guide can help you quickly recognize swimmer's ear in your young child, along with providing information on how to remedy it.
Understanding the causes
Swimmer's ear is when bacteria or fungus gets into the child's external ear canal. While it is more common if there is an injury to the ear's protective lining, it can happen even in otherwise healthy ears. As the bacteria or fungus reproduces, your child will begin to feel discomfort or pain. Symptoms usually don't show up right away, but they can appear by the following day. Although swimmer's ear is usually associated with swimming in lakes and pools, even the bathtub can cause it.
Symptoms to watch for
Keep an eye on your child after swimming. Initial symptoms are usually pulling or tugging on the ear, or perhaps rubbing the ear. They may also shake their head, as though trying to shake water out of their ear. The ear will turn red and there may be dry scales or yellow discharge from the ears as it progresses. Fever is also a possibility. It's best to call your pediatrician immediately as soon as you suspect an infection.
Treatment usually consists of rest and ear drops. An advanced infection may require antibiotic or anti-fungal ear drops to kill the cause of the infection. Acetic acid drops may also be prescribed to make the ear canal an area where fungus can't grow. For extreme swelling in the canal, a corticosteroid drop may be prescribed to bring down inflammation. Children's pain relievers can also be taken orally.
Preventing future cases
Prevention in the future is possible. Avoid using cotton swabs to clean a child's ear, since these tend to force ear wax deeper and can cause damage to the outer canal. Wearing earplugs can also lead to damage, so don't use these when swimming or in the water if it is avoidable. Some children are simply more prone to the infection, especially if they wear hearing aids or are prone to skin rashes. Finally, after each time in the water, use a swimmer's ear drop in each ear. This over-the-counter medication dries up the water in the ear canal so that bacteria and fungus is less likely to grow.
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