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Clinical Challenges in Otolaryngology
December 2000

Swimming With Tympanostomy Tubes

Author Affiliations


Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000;126(12):1507-1509. doi:10.1001/archotol.126.12.1507

Dr Giannoni presents a fair representation of the controversy surrounding swimming in children with TTs. In addition to presenting the factual data available in the literature, she offers a succinct summary of her current practice, which is to allow children to swim with TTs.

My personal philosophy is similar to that of Dr Giannoni. When questioned by parents of children with TTs regarding my attitude about swimming, I tell them that I would rather treat a child with a draining ear than a victim of drowning. Though this response is somewhat facetious, it is the case that otorrhea in children who swim with TTs can be treated readily with topical agents and, if necessary, systemic antimicrobial therapy. Surface- and shallow-water swimming should be encouraged in all children as a normal developmental activity. The presence of ventilating tubes should not interfere with this. Additionally, there are sufficient data to support swimming without ear protection in children with TTs that I am confident in allowing this. The fight that often ensues with placement of an earplug is one that parents can avoid. If a child has repeated episodes of otorrhea when swimming without ear protection, then I think it is reasonable to suggest the use of a plug. Though this is not based on science, I think it is better to continue to have the child swim and use protection rather than avoid swimming altogether.

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