Is It Swimmer’s Ear?

Is your child complaining of ear pain or a “full” feeling in the ear? As summer rolls around and children are around water more, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of swimmer’s ear and when to see a doctor.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal, the passage that carries sounds from the outside of the body to the eardrum. Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, can be caused by many different types of bacteria or fungi and is common in children who spend a lot of time in water. But you don’t necessarily have to swim to get it. Causes other than swimming that can increase the risk of swimmer’s ear include dry skin or eczema; scratching the ear canal; vigorous ear cleaning with cotton swabs; putting foreign objects like bobby pins or paper clips into the ear; or pus collecting in the middle ear due to an infection.

Common signs of swimmer’s ear:

  • Ear Pain – Sometimes itching will precede pain. Pain can be severe and gets worse when the outer part of the ear is pulled or pressed on. It also may be painful to chew.
  • Swelling – Swelling may cause a child to complain of a “full” or uncomfortable feeling in the ear. The outer ear may look red or swollen, and lymph nodes around the ear can get enlarged and tender. Sometimes, there’s discharge from the ear canal; this might be clear at first and then turn cloudy, yellowish and pus-like.
  • Hearing Problems – Hearing might be temporarily affected if pus or swelling blocks the passage of sound into the ear.

If your child complains of any of these symptoms and you suspect it is swimmer’s ear, call your doctor. If not treated, the ear pain will get worse and the infection may spread. Once treatment starts, your child should start to feel better in 1-2 days. Swimmer’s ear is usually cured within 7-10 days of starting treatment.

After being treated by a doctor, it’s important to keep water out of your child’s ear during the entire course of treatment. Cotton balls are an easy way to plug the ear during showering or bathing.

Call the health care providers at OneSource in Albany (229-439-1950) or Bainbridge (229- 246-6417), or walk-in to our urgent care. We can see you today!

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