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Swimmers Ear

Kandi Waddles, M.D., Lexington Clinic Pediatrics 


With warm days in the middle of summer many families are at area pools and lakes. Both of my daughters are on a swim team and are in the water every day. With all the swimming many kids can develop an outer ear infection, also known as swimmer’s ear.  

Swimmer’s ear is an outer ear infection which occurs when the inside if the ear canal stays wet for an extended period of time such as after swimming. The child will almost always complain of ear pain, sometimes severe and the pain is usually worse when you touch or pull on the child’s ear. Sometimes the child may complain of itching in the ear before the ear pain develops. There also may be a soft white ear wax or drainage from the ear.     

Fortunately, swimmer’s ear is effectively treated with antibiotic ear drops; usually the drops are placed in the ear a few times each day for 1 week. Occasionally if the ear is badly swollen the doctor may need to place a wick, a small cotton-like material into the ear. The antibiotic drops are then placed on the wick as instructed by the doctor. The child will need to stop swimming for a while since the ear will need to stay dry – this is often the most challenging part, telling a child not to go swimming for a week!  Analgesics, Tylenol or Motrin may be needed to help with the pain associated with swimmer’s ear, but the pain should improve within a few days after starting the antibiotic drops.   

Lastly, if your child is getting frequent outer ear infections, talk to your pediatrician about getting special ear drops to help prevent an infection from developing. Swimming is a lot of fun and a great exercise for children but if your little swimmer starts complaining of ear pain see your doctor because an infection may be developing.