What is Swimmer’s Ear and How Do I Prevent (and Treat) It?

It’s summertime, which means kids are going to be spending a lot of time in the water cooling off from the heat: diving in, swimming underwater and splashing around. The bad news: all that time in the water makes swimmer’s ear a risk among children. The good news: it’s pretty easy to prevent.

Swimmer's Ear TreatmentWhat is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear got its name because it’s often associated with the water and moisture that gets trapped in the ear after swimming, which can lead to an infection of the ear canal (otitis externa). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), swimmer’s ear is to blame for about 2.4 million health-care visits each year. The most common culprit is water from a lake, followed by ocean, bath and then pool water. But, you can reduce your chances of getting swimmer’s ear with a few preventative measures.

Is swimmer’s ear the same as the common middle ear infection?

No. Other types of ear infections cause pain inside the ear, but swimmer’s ear causes pain when the outside of the ear is touched. Look for these common symptoms.

Swimmer’s Ear Prevention

Since moisture creates the “perfect environment” for bacteria to grow, the best thing to do to prevent swimmer’s ear is to keep your ears as dry as possible. After you’re done swimming or showering, use a small towel to gently dry the inside of your ears and tilt your head to allow water to naturally escape each side. Also use a swim cap or ear plugs to prevent water from entering the ear canal when you’re in the water.

What not to do?

Never use a cotton swab to clean or dry the ear canal because it can be damaging to the ear drum.

Avoid scratching your ear canal; little breaks in the skin from fingernails can invite a serious infection to spread quickly.

Don’t try to remove ear wax. Your ear wax is there to help protect your ear canal from infection; remove it and you risk infection.

Swimmer’s Ear Symptoms

The symptoms typically start off mild (manifesting a few days after the ear is contaminated) but they can intensify quickly if the infection is left untreated. Look for the tell-tale signs of pain, itching, swelling, redness, discomfort, drainage, and a loss of hearing. Hearing will be muffled, and the ear may feel “full.” Look for redness and inflammation that can spread to the outer ear and the lymph nodes in the neck.

It is not contagious and is generally confined to one ear.

See The American Academy of Pediatrics for more information about swimmer’s ear.

Listen Up: Swimmer’s Ear Requires Medical Attention

If the infection advances without treatment, symptoms may progress to severe pain and swelling and fever. If you or your child has developed swimmer’s ear, it’s important to seek medical attention for the proper treatment and prescriptions. Generally, the pain and swelling will dissipate as the antibiotics take effect, clearing up in about a week.

Learn more about our services and how we can treat you and your family by calling our location in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey (908) 464-6700, or Middletown, New Jersey (732) 957-0707. We welcome you to walk in, get your exam and be on your way.

Ear Infections and How to Spot Them in Your Child

Spotting an Ear Infection in Your ChildNo matter what you do to help keep your child healthy, he or she may be at risk for a common childhood ailment: ear infections. The most common cause of earaches, this type of infection may occur several times throughout childhood. Prompt medical attention is strongly advised, particularly if your child is under six months of age. Here are some tips for spotting this condition in your child.

Be On the Lookout Following An Illness

If your child has recently suffered from an upper respiratory infection, be watchful for any symptoms of an earache. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, ear infections are typically caused by bacteria and may commonly follow a cold or a sore throat. Infected fluid may linger behind the eardrum following an illness, causing inflammation that may lead to severe pain and discomfort.

Ear Infection Symptoms

Very young children are still building their immune symptoms, which is why they may be more susceptible to complications following a cold or other respiratory illness. Additionally, the channels between the ear and throat that drain fluids in adults are more horizontal in children, which can lead to fluid build-up. The chances are that your child’s first upper respiratory infection and subsequent complications will occur before they are old enough to speak. Thankfully, children may use a variety of nonverbal cues to demonstrate that they are not feeling feel. These can include:

  • Ear drainage
  • Trouble hearing
  • Tugging on one or both ears
  • Trouble with balance
  • Poor appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever

In young children, you should also be on the lookout for vomiting or diarrhea. However, it is important to note that your child may not exhibit one or more of these symptoms. Watch for any changes in behavior, including fussiness, being clingy, or crying more than usual. These behaviors may indicate a possible illness or infection.

When to Seek Medical Help

Although this condition is common in children, it should not be left entirely untreated. Your doctor may recommend antibiotics to prevent the spread of infection in young babies. Antibiotics also may be recommended if your older baby or toddler is experiencing severe symptoms or is not better within two to three days. Mild infections should be monitored closely at home. Children’s pain medicine may help with pain, fever and inflammation, while a warm (not hot) heat pack can help soothe the area.

Pediatric Urgent Care

If you or your child is experiencing symptoms of an ear infection, do not hesitate to seek medical attention. You should also consider seeking medical advice before administering over-the-counter medicine or medicated ear drops to young children. When your child becomes ill, choosing the right medical provider is important; eMedical Urgent Care makes it easy to get the help you need, from pediatric health services to treating sinus infections in adults. Call to learn more about our services in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, (908) 464-6700, and Middletown, New Jersey, (732) 957-0707.

Strep Throat vs. Sore Throat

Checking Sore Throat, Acute PharyngitisSore throats are common for people of all ages, and particularly in the cooler months as more people are in close contact indoors. Some cases are more problematic than others, especially those caused by bacterial infections. These must be treated promptly with antibiotics to prevent complications and ensure a speedy recovery. How do you know if your bout of acute pharyngitis is just scratchy and short-lived or something more, such as strep throat? Keep reading to discover common symptoms of both.

Causes and Symptoms of Acute Pharyngitis

Common reasons you might develop soreness or hoarseness include:

  • Dry weather
  • Allergies
  • Influenza
  • Other viral infections (such as colds)
  • Bacterial infections

Symptoms are varied but can include pain while swallowing, redness, headache, inflamed nasal passages, swollen tonsils and fever. More severe symptoms can include joint pain, swollen lymph node glands and skin rashes. Left untreated, ear infections or sinusitis could occur.

Treating a Sore Throat

Viral infections are very common and typically do not require medical attention. If your symptoms seem mild, you can treat soreness at home by drinking soothing liquids such as warm tea with honey. As a treat, fruit-flavored popsicles can also help soothe the area. Teenagers and adults can use cough drops or lozenges during the day, or over-the-counter pain medication to help manage symptoms. Winter weather often brings dry air, so consider setting up a humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer to keep the air moist. You can include a drop or two of an essential oil such as eucalyptus or lemon to further help open sinus passages.

If your throat pain feels more severe or lingers more than few days, contact a medical professional to identify and treat the cause. In the meantime, try to get plenty of rest and drink more non-caffeinated fluids than usual to stay hydrated.

How to Tell if Your Sore Throat is Strep

Streptococcus is a highly contagious bacterial infection that develops following contact with an infected person. Unfortunately, the symptoms of strep are so similar to other cases of acute pharyngitis that a doctor will not be able to diagnose you without performing a rapid test or throat culture. Without a proper diagnosis, the doctor will not be able to issue antibiotics to treat a possible infection.

However, your soreness could indicate strep if you experience a high fever, a rash or swollen lymph nodes in your neck. You should also contact a doctor when what seems like a typical sore throat does not go away after several days, or if you notice white streaks on the tonsils.

Seek Help Anytime: eMedical Urgent Care Walk-In Clinic

If you suspect you or a family member might have strep, visit eMedical Urgent Care walk-in clinic without delay. Our emergency medical physicians provide quick diagnoses and treatment options for both children and adults. We offer convenient hours at both of our locations to better serve your busy schedule and urgent needs. Call to learn more about our services in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, (908) 464-6700, or Middletown, New Jersey, (732) 957-0707.