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My client, Nina L. Shapiro, MD, FACS, FAAP Director, Pediatric Otolaryngology and Associate Professor of Surgery at the UCLA School of Medicine shares insights on how to avoid a painful summer in her feature article in Westside Today.

Dr. Shapiro is the author of Take a Deep Breath: Clear The Air For The Health Of Your Child (World Scientific, January 2012)

Here are her suggestions to avoid ‘swimmer’s ear.”

The joys of swimming, toned moms, and tired tykes. But, like with most things in life there is also a downside to this stellar summer exercise: swimmer’s ear. A seasonal nuisance for both children and adults “otitis externa,” or “outer ear infection” as it technically referred to, is oftentimes painful. But, there are some precautions that can be taken to minimize ones’ chances of suffering an earful of hurt.

Swimmer’s Ear is caused by swelling and irritation of the skin of the ear canal. What causes this skin to go bad? The bacteria, or fungus, growing rapidly thanks to the warmth, water and humidity of watery settings. When water gets trapped in the ear canal, bacteria that usually exist quietly in the skin begin to grow, as these organisms are nurtured by these moist environs, resulting in their multiplying, thus causing swelling and pain. Other common symptoms include itchiness; wet, sticky drainage from the ear; pain when touching the ear; and occasionally fever, hearing loss, or facial swelling and redness. Once these microbial critters are entrenched, the infection can spread to the rest of the outer ear and face, so treatment, an antibiotic or antifungal eardrop, prescribed by your doctor, is a necessity. It’s also best to stay out of the water until the infection clears.

So how can you and your family avoid going down this moisture-fed rabbit hole? Here are some tips.

1. When you get out of the water, get the water out.
When you or your tyke exits the pool, gently dry the outside of the ear with a towel. If your child hasn’t had any ear surgery, including ear tubes, it’s safe to use an over-the-counter alcohol-based eardrop, which helps absorb ear canal moisture after swimming. If it still feels like water is trapped, set a hair dryer on a low, warm setting, and gently dry the ear, holding the hair dryer at least six inches from the skin.

2. Water, water go away – you won’t be in my canal today.
If you or your kids like to wear earplugs, then make sure that they are properly fitted so that they can help cut out or down on water entry into the canal in the first place.

3. Key Tip: No Q-Tip
DO NOT use cotton-tipped applicators. These are actually the second most common culprits of “swimmer’s ear,” after swimming itself. While it feels like these implements “clean” the ear of wax, water, and debris, they actually strip the delicate ear canal skin of its protective lining, thus enabling the aforementioned critters to take hold. If you must ‘clean’ your kids ears, use the corner of a washcloth to rub away what you can see. When using a cotton-tipped applicator, you remove only a little bit of wax, and push the rest into the deeper part of the ear canal, which inevitably leads to a big pain in the…ear.

Remember what your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother said when grooming ears: “Nothing smaller than your elbow in your ear!”

 

 

 

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