The thrill of jumping into the pool on a warm summer day is one of the highlights of the season for 5-year-old Charlie Armstrong. Escaping the heat and the sounds of the world above, Charlie takes advantage of the limited time before school is back in session and the pool closes to take a deep breath and dive underwater. It is pure bliss – until he rises in pain, shaking his head to let the water out of his ear. To help prevent the sensation of water trapped in his ear and to prevent an infection, also known as swimmer’s ear, from developing, Charlie now wears ear plugs that were fitted for him in his doctor’s office. But when should children wear ear plugs and do all children need to wear ear plugs?
Prevent Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear is an outer ear infection resulting from water staying in the ear canal for extended periods of time, proving the opportunity for germs to grow and start an infection. It is also known as otitis externa. Symptoms include itchiness inside the ear, swelling, redness, pain and discharge.
To help prevent swimmer’s ear, health care providers recommend that you keep your ears as dry as possible while swimming and make sure to dry completely after swimming. Use a towel and tilt your head to make sure water is able escape the ear canal. Doctors advise against putting anything in your ear, especially cotton swabs, fingers or other items. Also, do not try to remove ear wax to prevent an infection. Ear wax actually helps protect against infection. If you feel you have a buildup of ear wax, talk to your health care provider. They have safe ways of removing any blockage.
Wearing Ear Plugs
Keeping your ears as dry as possible while swimming can help reduce the risk of developing an infection in the ear, but that does not necessarily mean you need to wear ear plugs every time you go swimming. We are more susceptible to developing an infection when swimming in places where germs reside – especially in untreated waters like the lake or ocean. Children like Charlie, who suffered from middle ear infections at a young age, may still have tubes in their ears that were place during surgery to reduce recurrent ear infections. Wearing ear plugs to protect the ear(s) that still have a tube can help reduce the pain when swimming and help enjoying the lazy days of summer last a little longer.