Swimmer's ear is usually not a dangerous condition and often clears up within a few days after starting treatment. However, if untreated, it can become extremely and surprisingly painful. In rare cases, especially in diabetes patients or anyone with problems with their immune system, the infection may be more difficult to treat and can spread and damage underlying bones and cartilage, requiring hospitalization.
Your doctor may gently clean your ear canal with a cotton-tipped probe or a suction device to relieve irritation and pain. Also, antibiotic ear drops such as ciprofloxacin and hydrocortisone (Cipro HC Otic), ofloxacin or finafloxacin (Xtoro) are necessary to treat this problem. But if there is too much swelling or drainage from the canal, drops may not go in. If so, your doctor will most likely put in a small wick, a skinny one inch-long piece of dehydrated sponge or gauze, that will go in past the blocked area. When drops are applied to the wick, they will be able to seep into the canal and pass the blockage. This will provide quick relief, usually within six to eight hours.
Even newbie parents can spot diaper rash or a runny nose with no problem, but ear infections may come with only a whisper of symptoms. Yet three-quarters of children will get one by age 3.
"An ear infection happens when you get infected fluid or pus behind the eardrum," says Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. She is a pediatrician in Atlanta and editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Baby & Child Health. The most common cause? Colds. When secretions get trapped in the middle ear, viruses or bacteria...