Childhood is seemingly full of ear issues. Ear infections are common for little ears, after all. Sometimes, those multiple infections lead to ear tubes.
As if surgery on your child isn’t frightening enough, what happens after? Is swimming off the table? Can they not take a bath anymore?
What if your kid doesn’t have tubes, but they still have an ear infection? Can they swim? Likewise, what’s the deal with swimmer’s ear anyway? What is it and can it be prevented?
Fear not, the answers to all your questions are about to be answered!
Ear Tubes and Swimming - Can my Child Swim with Ear Tubes?
Surprisingly, yes! For years, pediatricians warned parents against allowing children with tubes to swim, but updated information has changed the rules.
Ear tubes, officially named tympanostomy tubes, are cylindrical pieces of plastic or metal that are surgically implanted into the ear. Such a procedure is necessary when a child experiences fluid buildup behind the eardrum. Tubes allow for pressure equalization to prevent this buildup.
Ear tubes are the most common outpatient surgical procedure for children, which leads to a lot of children wanting to jump in the pool, ear tubes and all.
It was originally believed that the hole created by the tube would allow water to enter the ear and cause further infections. Because of this, children were required to wear earplugs or stay out of the water.
In recent years, several studies have found no significant increase in ear infections when earplugs were not worn with ear tubes. Long-held guidelines were then loosened.
In conclusion, your child can absolutely swim with ear tubes and you can even skip the earplugs!
Also, in case you were wondering, baths are completely safe as well!
Can my child swim with an ear infection?
Yes, your child can still swim while they have an ear infection, assuming it is a middle ear infection. If your child is suffering from an outer ear infection, known as swimmer’s ear, swimming should be avoided.
Since treatment for swimmer’s ear involves keeping ears as dry as possible for 7-10 days, a dip in the pool would be counterproductive.
Middle ear infections, the common childhood ailment, are not contagious. Your child can’t spread the infection to others through the water.
While middle ear infections are not contagious, the colds that cause them are. Ear infections usually follow a bout of the cold virus or a sinus infection. If your child is still experiencing symptoms of his or her illness, please keep them out of water.
What’s the difference between swimmer’s ear and other ear infections?
Your child has an ear infection, that much you’re sure of. Still, was that ear infection caused by the pool party the other day or something else? How can you tell the difference between swimmer’s ear and a middle ear infection?
Middle ear infections, or otitis media, is when the air-filled space behind the eardrum becomes infected. This typically follows a cold virus or sinus infection. The Eustachian tube is to blame for this.
The Eustachian tube is a tiny canal that connects the ear to the upper respiratory tract. This tube wouldn’t make a great bouncer at a bar. It doesn’t do much to prevent germs from the nose and sinus cavities from sneaking their way into the ear. There, the ear infection begins.
Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal. This is the area from the eardrum to the opening of the ear. Water often gets trapped here and it creates a damp and dark environment that bacteria love.
But how to tell the difference? Check where the pain is centralized in the ear.
- Swimmer’s ear pain is felt near the opening of the ear. Pulling on the ear lobe would worsen the pain.
- Middle ear infections would cause pain closer to the eardrum. It would hurt more while laying down, for example.
Can you prevent swimmer’s ear?
You can definitely take steps to prevent a swimmer’s ear infection. While nothing is foolproof, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?
Since swimmer’s ear infections are caused by moist ear canals, prevention involves keeping the ear as dry as possible.
When swimming, your child can wear earplugs. Earplugs keep water out of the canal. If the water can’t get in the ear in the first place, there isn’t much of a chance for infection.
Before allowing your child to jump into the water, check the cleanliness. You should avoid any bodies of water with high bacteria levels. At publicly maintained bodies of water, there are usually signs signaling the status of bacteria. You may even find this information on a website.
What about chlorinated pools? Chlorine doesn’t always mean clean. If the pool appears visibly dirty, take a rain check.
After swimming in clean water, drain your child’s ears. The easiest way to do this is to tilt the head side to side while lightly pulling the ear lobe to let the water seep out.
Next, dry those ears well. Use a towel or a hairdryer to dry out any moisture.
How can you get trapped water out of the ears?
Prevention doesn’t always work. Despite your best efforts, you or your child might find themselves with water stuck in the ears. There are a few different methods you can try to drain that water.
First, try to get your jaw moving. Yawn widely or chew some gum and then tilt your head and pull your ear lobe. Jiggle the ear lobe around to get that water moving towards the exit.
Second, if that didn’t work, turn to gravity for help. Place a towel down and lay down on the side of the affected ear. After a few minutes, the water might leak out on its own.
Lastly, if none of the physical motions work, use some ear drops. Over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide ear drops can dry out the ears.
Keep those ears dry and healthy!
Once your child is ready to get back in the water, bring the swim school to your pool! At Sunsational Swim School, we match you with a swim instructor in your area and even guarantee kids 3 and older will learn how to swim back to the wall after a simulated fall into the pool. Learn more about our private at-home swimming lessons for all ages and ensure your children are even safer around the pool today!