Common childhood illnesses: Ear infection


No matter how careful you are as a parent, it is very normal for children to develop an ear infection. Even though all children will not develop an ear infection, there is one particular type of ear infection known as swimmer’s ear, medically known as otitis externa that is quite common in babies and young children.

What is swimmer’s ear or otitis externa?

This is a condition in which there is an infection in the skin that lines your child’s external ear canal. Initially, the infection can be caused by a small scratch on the skin’s surface, or even if the area around the ear canal is regularly damp. One of the main symptoms that your child may experience is pain in the ear. This will usually get worse if your child pulls at the ear. In some cases, when the infection is already quite developed, there can be pus and a strong foul smell.


Depending on your child’s age and the severity of the ear infection, the doctor will suggest the following modes of treatment.

  • Mild pain killer: If the pain is too uncomfortable, your child’s doctor may prescribe a mild pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, do not give any medication without consulting the doctor first, as it could worsen the infection and lead to other health issues.
  • Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory ear drops: In case the infection is already too advanced, just using a pain reliever will not help. The doctor will prescribe some antibiotic drops which will most likely have some antibiotic as well as anti-inflammatory properties. These will help to control the infection from getting worse and also help to reduce and control any further swelling.

How to prevent

The most effective way to prevent a swimmer’s ear is to make sure that the area around the ear canal is always dry.

  • Teach your child to properly dry the ears after a bath and even after a swimming session.
  • Regularly help clean your child’s ears by using a mix of water and white vinegar in equal proportions. This will increase the acidity level around the ear and prevent growth of bacteria.
  • Avoid trying to poke out the ear wax from your child’s ears. Ear wax can also act as a protective layering and you may scratch the ear while trying to remove it, making it prone to infection.


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