A special feature by Shakti Soni, M.D., F.A.A.P.*

Summer is a very special time. As grandparents, we bask in the joy of watching our grandchildren frolic in the sunshine and water. Unfortunately, for quite a few grandparents, this may also result in a trip to the pediatrician’s office to treat otitis externa, or “swimmer’s ear”.  Otitis externa occurs in almost 20% of children under ten years of age. During the summer months, the combination of increased humidity and water-based activities creates a potent environment for bacteria to thrive. The signs and symptoms to look out for include:

-ear pain,

-itching and irritation,

-ear discharge,

-hearing loss,

-And in severe cases, fever.

A trip to the pediatrician is important — to differentiate an infection in the middle ear as opposed to the outer ear, as the treatment differs accordingly. Middle ear infections are treated with oral antibiotics, whereas outer ear infections are treated with topical antibiotics. Leaving otitis externa untreated can lead to a rare complication called malignant otitis externa. This is when the infection spreads from the skin to the bone and marrow spaces of the skull base.

Upon treatment, it is best to avoid water sports for at least 7-10 days – not fun for you or for them! During this time, a cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly should be placed in the ear canal to protect the ear during bathing. To prevent ear infections, avoid cleaning ears with cotton buds as this removes the wax or cerumen, which inhibits bacterial growth. When engaging in water activities, it is helpful to wear well-fitted ear-plugs and thoroughly dry the ears afterwards. Also consider the use of drops that contain alcohol and or acetic acid to dry the ears. Hopefully these preventive measures will help ensure an extended carefree summer of fun with the family!


*Dr. Shakti Soni attained both her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree at the University of Transkei in South Africa. In 2012, she completed her pediatric residency at Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center. Dr. Soni is a board certified fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a pediatrician with Valley Pediatric Medical Group. Her interests are in complementary medicine and spirituality, yoga and meditation. Dr. Soni, her husband, and new baby daughter live in the Los Angeles area.