Children just love the water, and they relish time spent on pools and on the beach. If your family has been spending plenty of time in the water, you may have already heard about swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa is an infection and inflammation of the ear canal. It has been given the name swimmer’s ear because the children, who developed the infection, usually had a history of swimming prior to the onset of symptoms.

Normally, the ear canals have features that can prevent infection, and these work best when the ear canals are dry. Cerumen or the waxy substance in the canal creates a water-repelling layer, and it is also acidic in nature, which prevents bacterial growth. It also collects and transports dead skin cells, and other debris out of the ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear occurs when the protective layer of the ear canal is removed, and bacteria can penetrate easily. The infection is most often caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is common in the environment. Swimmer’s ear is different from the common middle ear infections in children. It usually develops without being preceded or accompanied by a respiratory infection.

A child’s small ear canal may trap water easily, and it may put a child at risk for developing the infection. A child may complain about itching of the ear canal, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. The ear canal may also be swollen, and it may cause moderate to severe pain. The pain may worsen when chewing, or when the ear is touched. If you suspect that your child has swimmer’s ear, contact your health care provider. Your child needs to see a doctor, so that proper treatment can be started.

Since children are at risk for developing swimmer’s ear, it is essential that preventive measures are taken. When bathing your child, try not to have soap, shampoo, or bubble bath enter your child’s ear canal. A child should never be allowed to lie down in the bathtub with his ears underwater. The products used for bathing may cause irritation or itching, and parents need to make sure that children are using these properly.

After bathing or swimming, see to it that you dry your child’s outer ear with a soft towel. You may also tip your child’s head to the side, so that water can drain from the ear canal. Although there are nonprescription drops available to prevent swimmer’s ear, always consult your child’s pediatrician before using these.

It is also essential that you choose safe swimming areas for your kids. Swimming areas with good chlorine and pH control are less likely to spread swimmer’s ear. Do not allow your kids to swim in locations, which have been closed due to pollution. Although earplugs may keep moisture out of the ears, it may cause itching and it may also push the earwax deeper into the canal.

It is also important that you teach your kids proper ear care. Do not allow your kids to scratch, and poke their inner ear with cotton swab, or any foreign object. When the ear canal is irritated, bacteria may easily invade the skin and cause infection.

While regular brushing is needed to keep the teeth healthy, our ears do not warrant the same attention. It is better not to disrupt the natural balance of the ears, so it can do its thing in keeping the ears healthy.