Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear (also known as otitis externa) is a common ear infection affecting children. It is often triggered by water exposure during swimming and other aquatic activities. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures empowers parents to safeguard their child’s aural health. Explore this guide to learn more about swimmer’s ear and how to keep your child ear-infection-free.

If you need to speak to a children’s doctor outside of office hours, why not call After Hours Kids in Austin, Texas? Our doctors are on hand during the evenings, seven days a week.

Understanding Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

Swimmer’s ear, or as doctors may call it, otitis externa, refers to an infection of the outer ear. It gets its name because kids often get these types of ear infections after swimming or other activities that involve being in the water.

What Caused Swimmer’s Ear in My Child?

The most common cause of swimmer’s ear is an increase of moisture in the ear canal, usually after your child has been swimming. The extra moisture can irritate the skin inside the ear and provide an ideal environment for bacteria or fungi to grow. You may notice they have more ear infections in the summer because it’s a time when they spend more time in the water.

Another possible cause of swimmer’s ear could be something that has caused damage to the skin inside the outer ear. The damaged skin can then lead to an infection. This damage could be caused by the following:

  • Incorrect use of cotton swabs to clean the ear
  • Scratching the ear canal
  • Putting any foreign object into the ear
  • Dry skin or eczema

A middle ear infection can also spread to the outer ear, causing swimmer’s ear. The infected pus can drain out through a hole in the eardrum.

Does My Child Have Swimmer’s Ear?

If your child has any of the following symptoms, they may have swimmer’s ear:

  • Ear pain, especially when the outer part of the ear is pulled or pressed on or while chewing.
  • Swelling of the ear canal. This can cause discomfort or feel like the ear is full.
  • Redness of the outer ear.
  • Discharge from the ear canal. The liquid may start clear and then turn yellow or cloudy.
  • Temporary hearing loss.
  • Tender lymph nodes around the ear.
  • Fever is possible but not common.

When to Call a Doctor

It’s important to contact your doctor even if your child has mild symptoms of swimmer’s ear. If they have severe pain or a fever, you should seek immediate help. After Hours Kids provides medical assistance outside of office hours.

How is Swimmer’s Ear Diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor will need to examine your child’s ear to look for the symptoms mentioned above. They will use an otoscope to look into the ear canal. They will check for signs like swelling, redness, and scaling. They may need to use a special instrument to clear the ear canal if the view is blocked by discharge.

In some cases, the doctor will run tests on the discharge to identify the bacteria or fungi. This will depend on the stage and severity of the infection. The results can help identify more effective treatments if the infection continues or keeps coming back.

Your doctor will also check the condition of your kid’s eardrum. If the infection is severe or there is damage to the eardrum, your child may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.

How is Swimmer’s Ear Treated?

The standard treatment for swimmer’s ear includes antibiotic ear drops to fight the infection. These ear drops are usually given to your child at various intervals throughout the day for up to 7 to 10 days. Your doctor will often prescribe ear drops that contain anti-inflammatory medication too. This will help to reduce swelling.

Once treatment has started, the infection should clear up within 7 to 10 days. Over-the-counter pain medication can be used if your child is feeling uncomfortable during that time.

If your child’s ear canals are blocked by the swelling, their doctor may insert a wick into their ear canal. This sponge-like material will help deliver the medication into the ear. The puss may also need to be drained to allow access for the drops.

If your child’s ear infection is severe, then oral antibiotics may be given.

For more severe infections, healthcare providers may administer oral antibiotics and conduct tests on ear discharge to identify the specific bacteria or fungi responsible for the infection.

How Can You Help Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

As a parent, there are many measures you can take to prevent swimmer’s ear. Try the following to prevent swimmer’s ear:

  • Dry their ears thoroughly after being in the water. You can do that using a hairdryer in the cool setting.
  • Don’t let them clean their eyes unsupervised.
  • Avoid using cotton swabs.
  • Don’t allow other objects into their ears.
  • Use over-the-counter ear drops that contain acetic acid or alcohol.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Contact After Hours Kids in Austin, Texas, for prompt medical assistance beyond the typical clinic hours. Our dedicated team is here to provide expert care and support whenever you need it most. You can also book your child’s visit online!


AHK Advanced Practice Providers

Our AHK APP’s include: Annie Croft, Pam Dietrich, Erin Moore, and Nikki Nutter,