Medical problems

Swimmers Ear

This happens when water gets into the ear and causes an inflammation it can be very painful.

Symptoms generally begin 2 or 3 days after swimming, it is an infection of the outer ear canal. The canal extends inwards for about 2.5 cm. Tugging or pressing on the ear lobe will increase the child’s pain significantly.  Swimmers’ ears are caused by bacteria and fungi, usually found in non-chlorinated water such as lakes, streams and pools abroad which haven’t got good hygiene levels.

Swimmers’ ears are quite uncommon in ocean water because the salt stops the growth of the organisms.

Advise against putting anything into the ear to try and get wax out or clean them, because this again can lead to an infection in the outer ear.

So if a child is complaining of earache, advise the parents to dry the ear canal as soon as the symptoms occur. Drops can be purchased from the Pharmacy.

Children who have a history of swimmer’s ear are subject to repeat infections.  So you may see them back in surgery after they have been on holiday.

The use of earplugs is quite controversial.  If they fit well, ear plugs help keep ear canals dry, however poorly fitting ones allow moisture in and then that may irritate the skin and the ear can become more painful.  If the pain is severe and the child is very distressed or there is a temperature, they should be advised to seek medical help.