Swimmer's Ear Prevention

Post By: Olivia Hahn

Today my topic seems to be appropriate for the hot summer days that have begun. As a kid I remember ALWAYS swimming. No matter what, I was in the water if it was available and I stayed in there for hours doing handstands and racing from one end of the pool to another. Now my main focus is on reapplying sunscreen and torturing myself in the heat to became a few shades darker...oh, how times have changed. Keeping your children out of the water is a futile task so you might as well have a few tips and tricks to help them avoid the dreaded 'swimmer's ear.'

Here's a quick break down for you: the ear consists of three sections. The outer ear -- which is basically what everyone sees and includes the canal leading to your eardrum; the middle ear -- which is all the tiny bones that vibrate when sound shoots through; and the inner ear -- which is your hearing organ called the cochlea that includes a bunch of tiny hairs that interpret sound to send to the brain.

Swimmer's Ear, which is called otitis externa, is easily confused with the common ear infection in children called otitis media. Otitis meaning 'inflammation', 'externa' meaning 'outer', and media meaning 'middle'. Otitis externa (swimmer's ear) is caused by inflammation of the outer passage of the ear. Otitis media (common infection in children) is caused by inflammation of the middle passage of the ear. Hopefully this is making sense.

Anyway, I went to Florida with my dad one year when I was in grade school. We were having a fantastic vacation eating exotic seafood and driving in our rented convertible (top down, obviously). One night I woke up in extreme agony (I don't really remember it but my dad said it was just as painful for him to watch me deal with it as it was for me to actually live through it). The only place open that late at night was a Walgreen's, so my dad called the pharmacist and explained  my symptoms. After learning of my extensive time spent in the pool and ocean, a pharmacist diagnosed my swimmer's ear and suggested my dad get ear drops immediately. So, off we went at 2 a.m. to find the nearest pharmacy.

If my father new this could've been avoided then I KNOW he would've taken measures to do so because to this day I swear he's still scarred by our experience (he's the one that gave me this topic, to be completely honest). So I am going to give some tips and tricks on how to avoid a situation that could ruin a perfectly good vacation! 

-If the kids can stand them, go purchase waterproof, tight fitting earplugs. My dad and I got neon colored ones at the drug store that formed to my ears once we put them in.

-Swim caps might not look the coolest but they'll help. Especially if you put them over the ear plugs.

-Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. After your child has swam all day dry their ears with a towel and lay them on their side. Drop 4-5 drops of this concoction in each ear. Now remember, this is to prevent --not to cure -- so make sure they aren't already suffering from an infection. 

-If your child seems to already be in pain from swimmer's ear (you can usually tell by their crying and screaming when you touch their ear lobes or outer ear canals) then offer some sort of pain reliever and get them to a doctor ASAP! I don't remember exactly what it felt like but apparently I was screaming bloody murder. 

I hope this helps you have a safe and enjoyable summer. Have a great week everyone! See you next time.

-Olivia