Further Reading

What is “swimmers ear,” and is it different than an “ear infection”?

by Amy R. Beach, FNP-BC, CLC

Otitis externa, commonly referred to as “swimmer’s ear,” is an infection in the canal of the ear. It usually occurs after it has been wet and bacteria or yeast has been allowed to grow. The symptoms can range from just pain in the ear to pain with movement of the ear, swelling of the ear canal, and discharge in the canal. Treatment is with antibiotic drops or drops to treat a yeast infection, depending on the cause. It is very important during treatment that the ear be kept dry. There should be no swimming during the treatment period and a cotton ball with Vaseline on it should be used while showering.

Sometimes a child can be prone to swimmer’s ear. If this is the case, it is recommended to take extra steps to keep the ear canals dry. Suggestions are wearing a swimming cap, using custom ear plugs, using an over-the-counter product for swimmer’s ear, or using a blow dryer on a low setting on the ears after swimming.

An “ear infection” usually refers to otitis media which is an infection in the middle ear space behind the eardrum. These infections are usually caused by fluid behind the ear drum that is infected and can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Because the fluid is behind the ear drum, they are not contagious and water does not affect them. However, the fluid can cause pressure changes making swimming underwater painful. Also, a child who has an ear infection should rest during the early treatment period to allow the body to use its energy to heal.

We, at Southern Tier Pediatrics, hope you have a safe and happy summer!