Children's Health

Recognizing swimmer’s ear

Summer is a time for fun in the sun, and that means lots of swimming. Lots of swimming for kids can lead to swimmer’s ear, cause mild discomfort that your child might not be able to communicate to you about, and if not treated quickly, can lead to infection.

According to the National Library of Medicine, swimmer’s ear “is inflammation, irritation or infection of the outer ear and ear canal.” Most of the time swimmer’s ear is mild in children, and symptoms include:

  • Itching and redness of the ear
  • Mild discomfort of the ear
  • A clear odorless fluid draining from the ear

In more severe cases, such as when a fever or signs of redness arise, you should consult your doctor right away; this could be a more serious infection and will need antibiotics.

Swimmer’s ear is easy to identify and treat in kids. Many kids will try to either take a cotton swab or use their finger to try to get the water out of their ear. The best and most efficient way to treat swimmer’s ear is to buy over-the-counter ear drops. When children feel discomfort, they can lie on the side of the infected ear, if the ear drops do not reduce discomfort, a simple pain reliever such as ibuprofen will help. Using a few drops of olive oil is a favorite home remedy as the oil repels the water and soothes the irritated skin.

Some good tips for preventing further irritation to swimmers ear is not getting any more water into the ear for about a week, as well as not wearing headphones. You can prevent swimmer’s ear by wearing earplugs while swimming and maintaining healthy earwax hygiene (too much or too little ear wax can cause ear infections).

Water is the best way to cool down a hot day, so sunscreen and clean, dry ears are a good way for kids to stay happy and healthy this summer.

If the infection does warrant a doctor’s visit the Children’s Hospital of Georgia’s practice site at West Wheeler is open to “early-bird” walk-in visits. Visit augustahealth.org/westwheeler to learn more.

Sources: The National Library of Medicine

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.