Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is a condition wherein the outer ear and skin of the ear canal become infected. Generally coming alongside other symptoms of a cold like congestion or a runny nose, it is not the same as otitis media, infection of the inner ear. After bathing or swimming, individuals are at risk of contracting swimmer’s ear if water remains trapped inside the ear canal. After water aggravates the ear canal’s skin, fungus and bacteria have the potential to move in and an infection can be created.This type of infection is not contagious, but is more like the infection you may receive from a scratch or scrape. To protect yourself from otitis externa, you can concoct your own generic elixir with vinegar and alcohol, or you can purchase the same thing at your local pharmacy. As soon as you have finished swimming, simply put five to ten drops in both ears, allowing the drops to remain several minutes inside the ear before emptying them out on to a Kleenex.The vinegar will destroy any harmful elements such as fungus or bacteria, and the rubbing alcohol will dry out the ears. This procedure is designed to keep your child from succumbing to a swimmer’s ear infection, and not meant as a cure if an infection is already present. Another option for preventing a case of swimmer’s ear in your child (beyond keeping their ears dry), is to watch them closely to ensure that they are not inserting objects into their ears, as even cotton swabs can be harmful.Hurting in your face ahead of the ear, hurting after pressing the small piece that protects the ear canal or after pulling your ear backwards and up, itching in the ear canal or on the outside of the ear, and a loss of hearing are all swimmer’s ear symptoms. The pain does not have to occur in both ears simultaneously for swimmer’s ear to be present.Watch for any substance coming out of the ear which resembles pus. If any of these warning signs are present in a young child accompanied by a possible infection, seek medical attention. Although unlikely, untreated or serious swimmer’s ear sometimes also affects the bone and cartilage encompassing the ear canal. Pain can be mitigated by the use of a heating pad, a warm cloth over the ear, or acetaminophen.For severe infections where the ear canal has become swollen, you will probably receive a prescription for a combination of antibiotic and steroid medicated drops. The fungus or bacteria will be killed by the antibiotic and the irritated skin of the ear will be treated by the steroids. A wick may be placed within the ear if it is severely swollen. This is a small sponge or cotton piece which allows the passage of drops through the swollen area and into the canal. If you are given a prescription for ear drops, then you should avoid swimming or submersion in water for the duration, usually five to ten days.Keep in mind that it is very important to monitor this condition in a young person, and to keep an eye out for recurring infection, balance problems, discomfort in the ear area, or any other malady which may indicate a return of the initial problem.