The external ear consists of the pinna and the external auditory canal (EAC). The ear canal runs from the skin at the entrance to the ear canal – inside the pinna – to the tympanic membrane. A number of harmless germs live in the ear canal.
However, it is in times of heat and humidity that the external auditory canal can become damaged, and it is these conditions that make it easier for germs to find a more favorable environment to reproduce and multiply, causing an infection in the external auditory canal, otitis externa. Although less frequent, otitis externa can be due to allergic causes or skin diseases.
Otitis externa: swimming pool otitis or swimmer’s otitis.
Otitis externa is characterized by itching, hearing loss and, above all, by being very painful, so much so that a slight friction can cause intense pain. It is a pain that worsens when speaking and swallowing food. In the case of a very important infection, even the skin of the pinna may become reddened. It is common for a thick discharge to appear in the pinna.
In spite of the fact that in some occasions it can be a showy picture as for the pain and the secretion, it is a question of an infection of slight type, not contagious and that does not originate fever.
In fact, it most often affects only one ear and only in children over five years of age, especially because at this age children enjoy bathing more, spend more time in the water and begin to dive.
It should be clear that, despite the intensity of the pain, otitis externa has nothing to do with otitis media, which affects the structures behind the eardrum and usually gives a more intense picture, sometimes with fever.
What should be done if the child complains of ear pain?
First of all, you should try to soothe the pain with an analgesic. Then, as always, consult with the pediatrician, who, if he confirms that it is an otitis externa, will prescribe some drops to be applied to the ear, and only in exceptional cases will oral antibiotics be necessary.
When can the child return to bathing after otitis and what precautions should be taken?
- While the child is being treated with drops, it is possible to bathe, but it is recommended to avoid diving.
- Whether or not the child has otitis externa, it is recommended to dry off after bathing.
- At home, after showers, air can be applied with a hairdryer, but with great caution.
- Teach children to remove water from their ears when they get out of the water.
- ALWAYS avoid using cotton swabs to prevent injury to the CAE and to avoid breaking the natural protective barrier of earwax.
- Avoid bathing your child in unhealthy water.
Otitis and ear plugs
In general, ear plugs are not well tolerated by children, and it is usually a reason for discussion, since they do not want to wear them. An important reference in the water is the sound of the environment, and children are uneasy about not hearing well in the water. In addition, it should be noted that this is not a 100% effective method of preventing water from entering the CAE.
If the child is undergoing treatment, he/she should not be submerged and when the bath is over, the ear should be thoroughly dried.
If your son or daughter frequently suffers from otitis externa, consult your pediatrician, since preventive treatments are available.