The Season of Swimmer’s Ear by Charles A. Welborn, MD, MPH, FAAP, FACEP Medical Director, After Hours Pediatrics Urgent Care
slightly acidic which helps to discourage bacterial growth.
A very common ear infection seen during summer months is otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the skin of the ear canal, typically seen in children who are spending a lot of time in the pool; sweating a lot, allowing the sweat to collect in the ear canal; or even, occasionally, by teenagers who seem to live in the shower – until the hot water runs out! The common theme, as you can see, is wetness.
So what causes the ear canal to become infected? There are two main reasons. First, people who use cotton swabs and other products to clean their ears may think they are helping the body; however, in aggressively cleaning the ear canal, you remove the layer of ear wax that protects against water and bacteria. It also causes small scratches on the surface of the skin, allowing bacteria to enter and cause infection. The second reason is excessive moisture: if water is allowed to remain in the ear canal, it lowers the threshold for infection.
The ear canal is usually fairly dry and keeps itself clean with glands that produce ear wax. Ear wax forms a water-repellant coating in the ear canal, collects dirt, and moves all of this to the outside of the ear. Ear wax is also
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