Swimmers Ear: Can You Prevent It?

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: Do your kids get swimmer's ear every year? Is there anything you can do to prevent it?
Air Date: 6/18/14
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: David Hill, MD
david hill 2013Dr. David Hill is Vice President of Cape Fear Pediatrics in Wilmington, NC, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UNC Medical School. He serves on the executive committees of the North Carolina Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics Council On Communications and the Media. In addition to writing a monthly column for Wilmington Parent Magazine, Dr. Hill writes and records for multiple websites including as,, and He has three children, ages six, nine, and 11.
Swimmers Ear: Can You Prevent It?
Swimmer's ear, which doctors call otitis externa, is an inflammation of the external ear canal.

It occurs when water gets into the ear—usually during swimming or bathing—and does not properly drain.

When that happens, the canal can become irritated and infected. Youngsters with this condition will com­plain of itching or pain in the ear; the latter particularly when the head or the ear itself is moved.

As the canal swells, hearing ability will decrease. The infected ear may ooze yel­lowish pus. Your doctor will diagnose otitis externa after examining the ear canal with an otoscope. He or she may treat it with prescrip­tion ear drops. Sometimes you will need to insert a gauze wick into your child's ear to make sure the drops reach the site of the swelling.

If it is needed, your physician will demonstrate this procedure. Also, try keep­ing your child's ear canal as dry as possible during the healing process; that means de­laying washing and shampooing until the inflammation has disappeared.

Once a child has had a swimmer's ear in­fection, you should try to prevent future episodes.

To help avoid them, your young­ster should place drops in the ears after swimming—either a 70 percent alcohol solu­tion or a mixture of one-half alcohol, one-half white vinegar.

Also, dry your child's ears with a towel immediately after swimming or bathing.

Join Dr. David Hill as he gives you the best tips for treatment and prevention of swimmers ear,

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