If it seems ear infections are more common in the summer, it’s because they actually do occur at bit more frequently. This seems to be a result of the weather, including both humidity and heat, along with increased participation in water sports. In general, ear infections are the second most common reason for visits to the pediatric primary care physician.
Types Of Ear Infections
There are two main types of ear infections. Winter infections are usually viral related and associated with an upper respiratory infection from a cold or the flu. The infection settles in the middle ear as fluid backs up causing pain and other symptoms. This type of ear infection is known as otitis media.
Fungal and bacterial ear infections occur mostly in the summer months and are medically known as otitis externa. This inflammation with infection is caused by water and moisture in the outer ear and is commonly known as “swimmer’s ear.” When the ear canal stays moist, it becomes a breeding ground for the growth of bacteria.
2.4 million children, teens, and adults visit the doctor annually for ear infections, although they seem to affect more children than adults. However, adults who spend a lot of time in the water, like swimmers, are more susceptible because the ear canal doesn’t have enough time to dry out.
Main Causes For Summer Ear Infections
The delicate skin that lines the inside of our ears can easily be damaged or injured leading to infections.
Some common causes may include the following:
- Not drying out the ears sufficiently after swimming
- Wearing headphones
- Using cotton swabs
- Scratching the ears
In addition, those who wear hearing aids and have skin allergies are at higher risk to develop ear infections. Lastly, watch that hair products like shampoos don’t get into the ears.
Symptoms And Treatment For Summer Ear Infections
If you notice your young child grabbing at their ears, crying and acting more irritable than normal, these may be signs of an ear infection. Running a fever is another sign of an ear infection.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed their long standing treatment recommendations. Instead of immediately prescribing antibiotics, they are taking a “Watchful Waiting” approach. Besides the unpleasant side effects of antibiotics, pediatricians are using them less often. There is fear the type of bacteria that usually causes ear infections is becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Don’t be surprised if your pediatrician tells you to use OTC meds and ear drops for pain, and wait 48 hours for symptoms to improve. If there is no improvement, see Davidson Family Medicine for further treatment.
Preventing Summer Ear Infections
Take extra time to dry your infant’s ears if they have been in water, including after bathing. Make sure your young child or teen tilts their head and thoroughly dries their ears after getting out of a pool or other body of water. Wear a cap or ear plugs to protect ears in water, and try using a hair dryer on its lowest setting to remove any remaining moisture.
With careful attention, it’s possible to enjoy summer water activities without the disruption of ear infections. Contact Davidson Family Medicine today to learn more about ways to prevent ear infections this summer!