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L.A. Parent: Stopping Swimmer's Ear

L.A. Parent magazine recently interviewed Colleen Ryan, MD, a Cedars-Sinai family primary care physician, about how to prevent and treat swimmer’s ear, an infection of the ear canal. Ryan’s practice at Culver City Primary Care is part of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Network.

The common summer ailment also is known as otitis externa and is most commonly found in children five to nine years old, although swimmer’s ear can happen at any age, Ryan told the magazine.

“The ear canal is sort of like a waxed paper cup,” the physician told L.A. Parent. “The wax protects the skin from the water soaking in there and letting infection in.”

But wearing earplugs or earphones, or excessively cleaning your ears with a cotton swab, can cause ear wax to lose its protective effectiveness, Ryan said.

The combination of ear wax breaking down and swimming “is the most common cause,” Ryan told L.A. Parent, “but it could be that you disrupted that wax barrier and took a shower or a bath and the water got in there.”

Parents will know that their child might have swimmer’s ear because it will be painful, Ryan told the magazine. “It can be itchy. There can be discharge from the ear. There can be pus and some drainage. And the kid will complain that they can’t hear out of that ear.”

Your doctor might prescribe a medicine to kill the bacteria as well as an anti-inflammatory, Ryan said. Although your child will feel better within a couple of days, it can take about six days before the infection disappears, Ryan said.

The best prevention is to keep the ear dry, Ryan told L.A. Parent. Use ear plugs while swimming and teach children to shake the water out of their ears when they get out of the water. “The key is that if your ear is dry, it’s not likely to become infected,” Ryan said.

Click here to read the complete article in L.A. Parent.


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