Swimmers Ear

Updated on July 14, 2008
K.C. asks from Stamford, CT
31 answers

My 4 1/2 yr old daughter is actively swimming now, going underwater etc. I think she has swimmer's ear - ear is painful to the touch, and she cries with pain (usually right before bed, tho it happened last nite at 2am). So far we've given her tylenol or motrin for the pain, and I heard that after swimming I should put a few drops of rubbing alcohol in the ear to dry up the water. Is there anything I can do to get rid of this? I've also been told that if its chronic I might have to get an antibiotic b/c it might be infected, but I'm really trying to avoid the doctor. Any homeopathic advice or other tried-and-true ideas for getting rid of this and/or preventing it from occurring? Thanks!

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So What Happened?

You ladies were right about taking her to the doctor - which I did, I heard you loud and clear! :) We received antibiotics, told not to go in pool for a few days. I am definitely going to use the 50/50 vinegar/alcohol remedy once this is cleared up - sounds like many of you have had great success with that, thank you!! She loves to swim, and I'd hate for this to turn her off from it (tho even w/ear pain, she was itching to swim yesterday). Thank you again for your honest feedback!

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M.F.

answers from New York on

Hi - you can go to CVS and buy drops over the counter specifically for swimmer's ear. I wouldn't put rubbing alcohol in because it could mess up the ear drum and dry it out too much. You can also use that squeezy bulb thingy that sucks mucous out of a baby's nose to suction out the water each time she gets out the pool. To relieve the pain at night, try olive oil (about 2 drops placed in the ear with a dropper, then close the ear with some cotton). But I would hesitate before the alcohol.

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A.D.

answers from New York on

Hi K., Yes swimmers ear is very painful. The drop of alcohol does work. I understand you wanting to avoid the Doctor but an infection could start and for that you need a professional and meds. Once she is cleared up she needs to wear ear plugs. I just got some in the Pharmacy. I love to swim and go under water and it happens all the time if I dont plug them up. Grandma Mary

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A.G.

answers from New York on

Go to the dr. If it is infected she needs meds and if it is not the dr will tell you how to dry it out. There are drops you can put in after swimming that dries it out. Never heard of the acohol so that may work to. A.

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C.F.

answers from New York on

I would definitely take your daughter to the doctor to rule out anything more serious than swimmer's ear, god forbid. It's the only way to know for sure what is going on..

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M.B.

answers from Syracuse on

Hi K.,
I worked in a pediatric office for years as a nurse and we always told our patients to use equal parts of alchol and vinegar in the ear. I suppose 1/2 tsp each mixed and then use a dropper to place a few drops in the ear. I know swimmers ear is painful and if you aren't noticing improvement within even 12 hours of using the drops she should be seen. The Dr will give her some anti biotic drops, maybe place a wick in the ear and or oral anti biotics.
Hope this helps.
M.

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D.D.

answers from New York on

This is a very painful condition! Please take her to the doctor and they will prescribe antibiotic drops to put in the ear. In the future you can buy alcohol-based drops to put in the ear after swimming to dry out any residual water to prevent this from happening again.

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S.D.

answers from Syracuse on

K.

2 things. My daughter has swimmers ear as well. We went through years of not knowing it and regular earaches. Finally at one of the doctor visits he looked into her ear canal and told us that she has swimmers ear. There are drops out there that you can purchase that are for swimmers ear and you can buy them at any drug or retail store. Walmart has them as well.

But the true thing to do is be proactive. Put plugs in her ears. They make these waxy like plugs that you can mold to your child's ear. This prevents the water from even getting into the ear. Once she is out of the water, again to be proactive, put the drops in. Once I started to do this, I saw a huge reduction in the amount of earaches and ear infections she was getting.

If you are looking for a homeopathic route, get some ear candles. Good luck.

S. D.

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R.C.

answers from New York on

Why are you avoiding taking your child to the doctor?? Why mess with what's going on inside your childs ears on what others are telling you when your child is crying out because of pain?????? This isn't like a cut on the finger, how do you know you aren't dealing with something that might effect her hearing for life????

Please take your child to the doctor....better to be safe then sorry...

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K.B.

answers from New York on

HI K.,
It sounds more like she has an ear infection than swimmer's ear--which does require antibiotics. You'll want to see the doc to be sure, even though you said you wanted to avoid doing so. While I'm not a doctor, I do know quite a bit about swimmer's ear since I'm a swimmer and coach.

Swimmer's ear is inflammation in the external ear canal. It is usually caused by water irritating the skin inside the ear, which then becomes infected with a bacteria, or more rarely, a fungus. The ear pain from swimmer's ear is made worse by tugging on your child's outer ear.

Since she already has ear pain, do not put alcohol based ear drops. They will likely burn and make your daughter's ear feel even worse. For mild cases of swimmer's ear, you might ask your doc if you can first try a home-remedy solution of half strength white vinegar ear drops (half water/half white vinegar) twice a day. Continue giving her the Tylenol or Motrin (but not both at the same time!) for the pain.

To prevent swimmer's ear, create your own homemade swimmer's ear prevention solution by mixing equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, and putting it in your daughter's ears after she swims.

I would advise against ear plugs because water does leak in and become trapped behind the plug.

I hope this helps!
-Kate

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M.L.

answers from New York on

K.,
Maybe she has an ear infection and not swimmers ear....My daughter had 7 ear infections in 4 months and what you describe is exactly what happened with her...nightime is the worst because when they lay down all the fluid causes pressure which causes the pain...she ended up with tubes and it was the best thing I ever did....I know that they can also give you ear plugs that should help with any swimmers ear if that is what it is...I would take her to the doc thought just to be sure!!
Meg :)

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R.C.

answers from Albany on

I lived in Arizona several years ago with 4 small children. The first month we were there, one had swimmers ear. The pediatyrician-who had 5 kids on swim teams-said AFTER the ear was cured w/ antibiotics to use a solution of white vinegar and alchohol 50-50. Put 2 or 3 drops in each ear everytime the child goes swimming. The very next week an ear/nose throat specialist was on TV and said the very same thing. As my children grew and were on swim teams year round, we followed that advice. I am the grandmother of 8 and when that was followed, no more swimmers ear. I pick up an eye dropper and a small bottle at the drug store, put in 1/4 cup WHITE vinegar and 1/4 cup alchohol. It was kept by the door to the pool and automatically used. I have since given that advice to my granddaughters swim team after a few had swimmers ear-and again success. Going on vacation? Take it with you. It really works. The alchohol dries up the water and the white vinegar kills the microbes.

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L.M.

answers from New York on

Hi K.,

I know you don't want to go to the doctor. But if it doesn't get better soon, you should definitely make the trip to be sure it's not an infection.

My daughter had swimmer's ear last summer. The doctor prescribed some eardrops, told her no underwater for a week, and to wear earplugs.

Hope your little mermaid is better soon.

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L.S.

answers from Buffalo on

Hi K.,
Swimmers Ear is an infection of the outer ear. The American Lung Assn. cites formaldehyde as a possible major cause of chronic ear infection in kids. Formaldehyde is an ingredient in many cleaning and personal care products commonly found around a home. Of course, swimmers ear can be caused by swimming in rivers, lakes or pools that have bacteria in them. In any case, when it is so painful that it wakes your daughter at 2 a.m. it may have traveled to the inner ear. I use a drop of special Melaleuca oil mixed with 20 drops of warmed olive oil put into a dropper to start, but the doctor may be your only solution. If I can provide further information for you, K., contact me at ###-###-#### or at www.LiveTotalWellness.com/L.

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M.K.

answers from New York on

my 20 month old son was diagnosed with swimmer's ear yesterday. the dr gave me a prescription of drops because swimmer's ear is an infection. he can't go in the water for 3 days. i would take your daughter to the dr because my son was really not complaining much just grabbing his ears when he woke up and was a little cranky. maybe it's more than just swimmer's ear. good luck.

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A.P.

answers from Utica on

Your Daughter is in pain and if she has an ear infection you should really go to a doctor, find another one fast if you're trying to avoid yours. Ear infections are extremely painful and can cause ruptures inside the ear that have the possibility to heal wrong and cause permanent damage inside the ear. I respect your trying to keep things natural, but a child needs medical help from time to time.

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B.G.

answers from New York on

I use swimmers ear, drops from the pharmacy. It works pretty well. Jesse, my 4 year old also waers ear plugs when she feel like it. They work also!

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A.H.

answers from New York on

use an eye dropper with some warmed oil (like olive oil or other) put a few drops in.. let her lie down.. and the water is supposed to come up to the surface.. keep her ears dry for a few days after... Like if she swims.. not under the water for 2 - 3 days.. and then use wax.. for ears... they are like ear plugs-- but it's wax.. the pharmacy sells it.. you roll a piece and put in each ear. It works great. good luck!

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A.C.

answers from New York on

There are over the counter drops you can get that work great. Just went through this with my 7 year old.

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B.L.

answers from New York on

K.
You really have to take her to the doctor. My 3 yr. old just had it and she was in terrible pain. I waited too long and her eardrum almost ruptured. Please go to get the antibiotic and drops. She will have relief in one day!
Good luck!
Barb

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K.M.

answers from Syracuse on

Please take her to the doctor. I have had swimmers ear before, and it is sooooo horribly painful. My son got it last year and by the time he told me he was in pain it took seeing a specialist to get the proper medicine to completely clear it up. These alcohol/vinegar mixtures are a preventive measure when not already infected. They will not fix the problem at this point.

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S.T.

answers from Albany on

K., I am glad you are into homeopathic and I am too. For earaches, I have used garlic oil with my boys and myself. I works. If hers is really hurting her, it may take a while. I didn't realize mine was bad until it starting hurting going down the side under the ear and I used it and consistently and I thought at first it wasn't going to work, but it finally worked. I let it go too long and it may seem it's not working if you let it go too long but it will and you will haveto keept doing it. Any questions, let me know and I'll do my best to help you.

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L.M.

answers from Jamestown on

I have had good results with my kids by putting a few drops of olive oil impregnated with fresh garlic in their ears. Another tactic would be getting a steaming hot wet washcloth, lying her on her side, and having the steam go up into her ear. The idea is that the pain is caused by the constant evaporation in the ear and if you add enough moisture for the water to form a droplet and drain out then the pain goes away. We don't get swimmers ear so I haven't tried out this personally but the people who told me about it swore by it.
Good luck, poor thing.

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S.R.

answers from New York on

You should take her to the doctor to get her ear evaluated and seek his advice. At that age, a lot of swimmer's ear remedies may not be safe to use. Once you've rulled out an ear infection, he may be able to help. (Excessive wax may be the problem too - my son had that a lot.) You definately do not want an ear infection to go untreated, it can lead to other serious health complications. Once the ear is cleared up, you can buy a type of ear plug to keep the water out, and still allow her to hear.

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J.G.

answers from New York on

Hi K.....my son is 12 and i deal with this every summer...sounds to me like she now has an ear infection (sometimes the ear can not handle the draining even with drops)..I think you need to get her to hre doctor where I think they will tell you she may have aniner or outer, or both, ear infecton and put her on antibiotic...just went through this myself. They said when it becomes painful to the touch it is usually a sign the swimmers ear has turned into something more...good luck.

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A.E.

answers from New York on

Try a solution of half white vinegar and half alcohol... The alcohol alone will perpetuate the dryness which is one of the painful things about swimmer's ear. This advice from a swim coach helped my son greatly!!!

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C.B.

answers from New York on

Hi K.,
Avoid antibiotics, what does the word say? ANTI - just to overused!
I want to suggest a very good tea trea oil (Melaleuca oil) and olive or other fine oil. take 1-2 drops of tea tree oil and mix with 5-10 drops, slightly warm oil, put on a botton ball and insert into her ear overnight. You can also drop a tiny bit into her ear.
Here is the info I have: Unlike adults the ear canal in infants and small children inclines upward from the inner ear foward its exit in the throat.This anatomical uphill climb makes children more susceptible to earaches and inner ear infections. You do not have to have an infection to have an earache. Milk drinking after weaning, allergies, the common cold and even teething can cause this problem. A cool breeze can set off ear canal muscle spasms. Many foreign substances have been removed from childrens's ear canals as well.
We should also be aware that the AMA has stated that formaldehyde in shampoos and air fresheners causes earaches and other products, causes earaches (to mention that formaldehyde is covered up under several names, one of them being Q15) If you are using J&J baby shampoo, it contains formaldehyde.
I greatly recommend to convert your home to nontoxic, safer product.
Hope this helps you and other moms.
If you would like more info feel free to contact me at: [email protected]____.com

C.

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C.H.

answers from New York on

My daughter had swimmer's ear 2 years ago and because we did not treat it with an antibiotic at the onset, it got much worse, was very painful and took longer to heal. We had to keep her out of the water for almost 3 weeks while her ear healed. We also used the over the coubter swimmer's ear aid for the rest of the summer after her ear had healed, to prevent reinfection.

Good luck!

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M.K.

answers from New York on

First, if it's that painful, you should take her to the doctor. There is always the possibility that the eardrum can get so inflamed that it can burst. Not a huge deal and it heals quickly, but check it out.

As for homeopathic, I've used Simisalan ear drops in my son's ear and it is very soothing and works fairly quickly. It has something that dries it up AND soothes the pain. Good stuff. You can actually find it in many traditional drug stores, but definitely at health food stores.

M.I.

answers from New York on

You MUST go to the doctor for this. Ear infections are common, but if not treated properly, they can lead to very serious consequences. In severe cases, ear infections can cause loss of hearing and can spread into the brain when left untreated for a long time. Not trying to scare you, but you must rule out this possibility before you start trying home remedies. It sounds like one of the real problems is that you don't trust your doctor or that you have a different philosophy from her. But doctors now are a lot more conscientious regarding prescribing antibiotics and they should only be used when appropriate. Let your doctor know that you just want to rule out an infection and that if it is not that, you would prefer to treat this earache with a non-prescription option. If you don't feel comfortable with your doctor, search for another one. Usually those that are associated with a medical school are most knowledgeable about the latest trends.

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J.P.

answers from Sharon on

Hi K.,
I was a swimmer all of my young life!I was on the competitive and syncronozed swim teams all througout my school years. I always used these drops for your ears you can by it in the drug store (I always found it by the ear plugs) I just saw it recently and smiled, thinking back. I can't remember what it is called...sorry! I know if you ask the pharmasist they can tell you. Never had problems again after using this. Now I don't get to swim like I used to, I just use a little peroxide in each ear it dries up the water, and kills bacteria. For ferquent swimming I would try the drops! Hope this is helpful! Happy swimming.

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K.A.

answers from New York on

My daughter also gets swimmers ear. Which seems to be caused by water getting caught behind the wax in the ear. If I were you I would go to an ENT. If nothing else they can remove the wax which will not only allow it to heal(though if the infection is bad they may want to give you drops) but also help it from happening again. My ENT used a little suction tube to suck it out (my daughter had a ton of wax) - no meds.

K.

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