Dr. Howard Gollup is a board-certified pediatrician with Aurora Advanced Healthcare in Germantown. He cares for children from birth through adolescence. Though he cannot respond to individual medical questions, he welcomes your feedback and suggestions for future topics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual general examinations for children and adolescents age 5-18 years. Summer is a great time to schedule these, since kids are off of school and pediatricians aren’t quite as busy in the office with earaches, respiratory infections, and other acute illnesses as in winter. Once your child is five years old or so, it doesn’t matter as much if the annual exam is immediately after their birthday or a few months after.
Scheduling the visit early in summer avoids the late August crunch where every parent is trying to get their child in for a “physical”. Although most pediatricians leave openings for same-day illness visits and acute medical problems, they are less likely to be able to accommodate an urgent football physical just because practice starts that night. (Still, we do it when we can.)
Although it feels like summer hasn't really gotten here, we have started to see the usual uptick in cases of “swimmer’s ear”, as we do this time of year, once children start swimming regularly. Unlike the common middle ear infections most typical of infants and young children during the cold and influenza season, swimmer’s ear is an infection of the external ear canal, the portion just beyond the visible opening of the outer ear.
As the name implies, this problem is commonly seen in swimmers. Repeated flushing with water changes the normally acidic environment of the external ear canal to a neutral pH. The typically dry ear canal also remains damp. These conditions allow for overgrowth of certain bacteria that cause infection of the lining of the ear canal. The resulting inflammation can be extremely painful. Unlike middle ear infections, the pain of swimmer’s ear is particularly acute when the external ear canal is disturbed: Pulling on the ear lobe, pushing the skin in front of the opening to the ear canal, and even chewing can cause a sudden increase in pain.