The most common external ear infection is otitis externa, or "swimmer's ear," which results when water fails to drain completely from the ear canal. Otitis media is a middle ear infection that occurs inside the eardrum and does not result from exposure to water. Middle ear infections are unavoidable, but you can reduce the risk of external infections, by keeping your child's ear canals dry. There is no danger in allowing your child's ears to get wet, but it is important that they do not remain wet.
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Things you need
- Baby-safe soap
- Cotton swabs
- Soft towel
Wash your baby's ears properly and often. Use a moist washcloth to wash around the external areas of the ears gently with baby-safe soap and warm water. Wet the washcloth again and carefully wash the grooves inside the ear. Take care that no part of the cloth enters the narrow ear canal.
Turn the baby's head to one side, to allow water to drain from the lowered ear canal. Draining water that makes it into the canal is essential. Once the water has drained from that ear, tilt his head the other way, to drain the other ear.
Use a cotton swab to soak up draining water, without passing the swab into the ear canal. Lightly press the tip of the swab against the bottom of the external area of the lowered ear canal, while tilting the child's head to the side.
Dry the outside of the ear, and the grooves in the outer ear, with a soft towel.
Tips and warnings
- Do not use earplugs to keep water out of your baby's ears unless directed to by a physician. Water entering your child's ear canals will not cause any harm to the baby as long as you drain the water from the canals after submersion, such as following swimming.
- Never insert anything into your baby's ear canals, including cotton swabs. Eardrums are very delicate, especially in children, and rupturing or damaging an eardrum can result in partial or complete deafness. Cotton swabs can also push wax and other materials deeper into the ear canal, where they may trap water that can lead to a swimmer's ear infection.
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