Swimmer's ear (otitis externa)
Swimmer’s ear (also known as otitis externa) is an infection in the outer ear canal that is caused by overexposing the ear to water. When water from a pool, lake or even the bathtub gets trapped in the ear canal, it changes the pH balance and allows bacteria to grow. Otitis externa is the diagnosis of any infection of the outer ear. Inner ear infections are called otits media.
Water is the usual cause of swimmer’s ear; however, a trauma to the ear can also cause the condition. If your child has somehow scratched the inside of her ear, the infection could have started in the scratch. Another cause could be from using cotton swabs to clean the ear. The earwax provides protection to the ear by stopping dirt and bacteria from entering the ear canal.
When you remove the wax, the ear canal is more susceptible to bacteria. Also, pushing the wax further into the ear with the cotton swab creates an environment where bacteria can grow. A child with swimmer’s ear will first have itching in the ear that quickly turns into tenderness. There may be red scaly skin at the outside of the ear canal, a discharge that is yellow, watery, or smells bad, and swelling of the glands in the neck.
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