Tag Archives: otitis externa

Wet Hair at Night, Right on Grandma! (Pedcast)

Grandma often said that going to bed with wet hair can make a child sick. Is this true? Does this condition matter to your child’s health? Dr. Smolen discusses this subject in today’s podcast and gives his perspective on this burning question. Have a chuckle and find out the answer at the same time.



Dr Paul Smolen here, your pedcast host for another edition of DocSmo.com…the podcast that helps parents raise their children from the playpen to professional school

Winter in Charlotte

Gets cold even here.  Sometimes it even gets below freezing yal!

I was talking to a patient the other day about one of those Granma truths, does wet hair at bed make a child sick.

I get asked about this enough that I thought I would weigh in on subject


Before I give you my perspective on this burning subject, let’s review a few other Grandmaisms shall we?


Fish oil is good for your health–yes see the cast on “ADD Integrative approach”

Drinking soda is bad for your health—yes, yes, yes see the cast on “Why your child shouldn’t have sugary drinks”

Exposure to extremely cold weather can give you pneumonia- probably yes.

Chicken soup helps respiratory infections- definite yes see the cast on “Winterizing your children”.

Going outside everyday for fresh air good for your health- Yes see cast on Vitamin D.

An apple a day is good for your health- yes See the cast on “The Supper table”.


Well, you get the idea

Grandma was right more often than not.

You remember that DocSmo pearl,  “If she weren’t right, why bother to pass it on.”

If Grandma had been a stock investor, she would have been the Warren Buffet of her time!

So what about this going to bed with wet hair thing… was she right on this one?


In my opinion yes

I see a lot of children with a condition in the ear canal called otitis externa or swimmer’s ear.

We have discussed this on previous pod casts but for those who don’t know, this is a skin condition in the ear canal manifesting as a sore tender outer ear, sometimes with a loss of hearing and very rarely fever.

When a child gets otitis externa they have an overgrowth of either bacteria or fungus that has infected the tender skin in the outer ear canal.

And what promotes the conditions for this to happen?  You got it a damp ear canal for a prolonged time like that when a child, especially a girl goes to bed with long wet hair.

The pillow gets wet, there is probably water still in the ear canal and the hair just serves to keep things damp for hours.

This is a beautiful recipe for an overgrowth of loads of microbes.

Remember, bacteria usually only take about 10 minutes to reproduce so a few become many very, very quickly.


When I see a child with otitis externa, especially recurrent cases I find that they are either competitive swimmers, have eczema in the ear canal, or they are a child (especially a girl) who goes to bed regularly with wet hair.

So “I” think grandma was right again.  The lady was a genious.

The next time you hear your Grandma’s voice telling you something that she believed would help your health, listen carefully.  She probably knew exactly what she was talking about.


To prevent your little Janie or Johnny from getting a painful case of otitis externa, dry that hair and those little ears after bath time, especially at night.

The folk remedy of a few drops of a half and half mixture of rubbing alcohol and vinegar works incredibly well to prevent otitis externa.

This mixture both dries out the outer ear canal and kills all the bacteria and fungus effectively stopping the whole infection process.


Well, that’s it for today.

I hope you found that little discussion useful.

Make sure to pass this one on to grandma or great grandma if they are interested.

You can easily send any of the DocSmo podcasts to anyone you like, especially grandma, at my website DocSmo.com

And don’t forget to like DocSmo on face book, subscribe on itunes or like us on twitter.

This is, Dr. Paul Smolen, reminding you that you should care, if your child goes to bed with wet hair.


Until next time

Referenced DocSmo Pedcasts:

1. ADD, the Integrative Approach

2. Why your child shouldn’t have sugary drinks

3. Winterizing your children

4. Grandma, Cod Liver Oil, and the 2011 news on Vitamin D

5. The Supper table

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From the desk of Doc Smo: Swimmer’s Ear Prevention 101 (Article)

If you have ever had it, you know Swimmer’s Ear hurts like crazy. However, most people have no idea what Swimmer’s Ear is and what causes it. Well, lets fix that right now. To understand the cause, we need to start by gaining an understanding of the architecture of the ear and how it is different than other places in the body. The ear canal is a dark tunnel lined with skin that is often very damp, especially in warmer weather. Water frequently gets in but gets trapped by the shape of the ear canal. Well, what happens to water anywhere it sits around without movement, especially when it’s at body temperature? You know it, yuk grows in it! This is especially true in your ear canal when you are in and out of water all day. Once the water enables fungus and bacteria to grow in the ear canal, it is easy to see how these microbes can infect the surrounding skin. Swelling occurs to the point that the ear canal can literally be shut, making things much worse. Oh man, that can hurt!
All of this leads to a tender ear, aching down the side of the neck, and a very miserable child. The children most prone to having bouts of Swimmer’s Ear are: those with eczema (lots of cracks in their skin), those who frequently use Q-tips, those who are in and out of water frequently (especially lake or ocean water), and those who go to bed with wet hair (yes, your mother was right on that one).

Once an outer ear infection gets started, it can be very difficult to control; prevention is the only game in town. Here is a simple way to prevent Swimmer’s Ear in your child, especially as they go off to camp and swim in lakes and rivers. First, buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol and pour half of it out. Fill the bottle back up with either white vinegar or apple vinegar. If you can get a bottle with a dropper on it, great. At the end of EVERY summer day, when no more water is going to get into your child’s ear (usually bedtime), put a few drops of the alcohol/vinegar mixture in their ears and rub it around. Dry the excess with a towel. The combination of the alcohol and acidic vinegar make a very hostile place for germs, and they simply don’t grow. Without the bacteria and fungus in abundance, the cracks don’t get infected. Make sure their hair is dry, and put those little puppies to bed. If you are religious about this, most children won’t be suffering from Swimmer’s Ear this summer. Miss a day or two and all bets are off. If they go to camp, figure out how to make this happen there. It is worth the effort.