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Telemedicine for Swimmers Ear

By: Naomi Zilkha, MD (Telemedicine, Allied Physicians Group)

Hi Allied! It’s #TelemedicineTuesday!

Today I’m going to talk about a very common topic for summer Telemedicine consults: Swimmer’s Ear.

Swimmer’s Ear (also called Otitis Externa) is an infection of the external ear canal, caused by bacteria that grow there when the area is moist.

Swimmer’s Ear is super-easy to diagnose by telemedicine. It’s an easy exam to do, and I demonstrate it on myself, and parents easily get the hang of it.

How do I know if it’s just swimmer’s ear and not a middle ear infection (also called Otitis Media) by telemedicine? If a parent has a Tyto device, I can quickly do an exam with the device to look at the eardrum.

However, most Allied patient’s don’t have a Tyto device, but I can still confidently make a diagnosis of swimmer’s ear by the exam I have the parents do. If there is a fever, or the patient looks sick to me, or there is accompanying bad cold symptoms, what I normally do is start the patient on the Swimmer’s Eardrops, and then have them follow up the next day in their Allied office for an in-person exam.

Just last night, I did a consult for a patient with swimmer’s ear and electronically prescribed the ear drops to a 24 hour CVS. That way, the patient (who was otherwise totally well) could still attend camp today—just not go under the water.

After swimmer’s ear, although I prescribe the drops for 10 days, I tell the parents that the patient can go back under the water when they have had zero ear pain for one day.

Can swimmer’s ear be prevented?

Yes, it can. When my kids were little and in the pool 7 days a week, in the evening I made my own mixture of half white vinegar and half rubbing alcohol that I used on them each night before bed.

You can also buy over the counter swim-ear drops (or other similar drops) that pretty much have the same ingredients as my home remedy, but are easier to use because they are in a bottle. I’ve found that if a parent is compulsive about using the drops every night during swimming season, there is a very low chance of getting swimmer’s ear.

For a simple case of suspected swimmer’s ear, I highly recommend a telemedicine consult over Urgent Care. One reason for this is that, even in the summer, there are lots of contagious illnesses (we’ve been having a particularly brutal Coxsackie season), and it’s not worth exposing your kids when I can do a very quick exam and get your antibiotic ear drops started, all while your child is sitting comfortably at home.

Even if you’ve never tried telemedicine before—especially if you’ve never tried telemedicine before—you will be so amazed at how quick and easy the whole process has become.

So, remember, for after-hours urgent care, #ThinkAlliedTelemedicine first.

-Dr. Z

Download it before you need it! To learn more about the Allied Telehealth program and how to download TytoCare, click here.