As temperatures begin to rise and the start of summer approaches, children are spending more time swimming, prompting Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) to caution parents on the importance of taking steps to limit the risk of ear infections.
According to Dr Faisal Abdulkader, a senior consultant at HMC, too much moisture in the ear can irritate and break down the skin in the ear canal, letting bacteria or fungi enter the ear. He said that complaints about otitis externa, also known as swimmer’s ear, are more frequent during summertime when swimming is common and children spend more time in the water.
Letting children splash around in pools or in open water is a great way to promote physical activity and help them stay cool. But all that time in the pool can lead to some unwanted consequences.’
He explained that the condition is typically easy to identify and results in redness and swelling of the ear canal and outer ear. Dr Abdulkader said that the infection, which is caused by water remaining in the ear and subsequent bacterial growth, is a one-time occurrence for many patients but can become a chronic problem, especially if treatment is neglected.
Redness in the outer ear along with some pain, tenderness, and a feeling of fullness, itchiness, and irritation, can all be symptoms of swimmer’s ear. Patients with swimmer’s ear may also experience swelling in the outer ear and lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and problem sleeping. The patient’s hearing may also be temporarily affected. While the condition is normally short-lived, it can become severe if treatment is neglected and the infection progresses.’
Dr Abdulkader said that the high temperature of many swimming pools create a suitable environment for the growth of bacteria that causes inflammation. He said that while medical intervention is not always necessary, it is important for patients to see their primary care doctor if they suspect an infection, especially in the case of younger children.
While the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) department at HMC predominantly cares for patients with complex diseases, specialists at the department also receive referrals from the Emergency Department and treat patients with chronic ENT conditions referred from primary healthcare centres.
Dr Abdulkader cautioned against the use of home treatments, such as concoctions to flush the ears and the insertion of cotton swabs and other foreign objects.
The use of earplugs when swimming and over-the-counter solutions that can help break up blockages can be useful in preventing ear infections. Using a hair dryer on a very low setting or a soft towel to dry the outer ears after swimming can also be effective. Avoid putting cotton swabs or other foreign objects into the ear, as these can push material deeper into the ear canal.’
For more information about the ENT department of HMC, visit their website at hamad.qa.