Q: The pool is open for the summer, which means dealing with my kids getting swimmer's ear. How can I prevent it?
A: Swimmer's ear, also known as otitis externa, is a painful, itchy infection that is caused by water that remains in the ear canal after bathing or swimming. The water creates a warm moist environment for bacteria to grow.
You can combat swimmer's ear by making sure your children dry their ears carefully after swimming. Remind them to never insert anything into their ear canals such as cotton swabs. Doing so can tear the sensitive skin, leaving it more susceptible to bacteria or can push earwax too far into the ear canal. Dry the outside of the ear with a towel carefully then tilt your to each side for a few moment to allow any remaining water to drain out.
There are various swimmer's ear prevention and treatment drops available over the counter at drugstores. The homemade recipe that I recommend is a 1-to-1 ratio of rubbing alcohol and distilled white vinegar. Instill four to five drops in each ear, allow to drain and air-dry.
If you think you children have developed swimmer's ear, be sure to take them to see their pediatrician. Treated early, the infection will go away fairly quickly, but leaving it untreated for too long can lead to complications, including temporary hearing loss, chronic otitis externa and widespread infection.
— Dr. Tonia Cox, CHI Memorial Pediatric Diagnostic Associates; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society