Just got home today after a full week on the road with the kids, Sunday-Sunday: some historical stuff, some fun stuff, all five to six hours' drive from home. Eight days, three cities, four hotels, three very wiped-out kids. Was going to write about the trip tonight, and I will eventually, but it's getting temporarily preempted by Thing One, who managed to get himself sick at the waterpark I've been writing about. He'd been going downhill for the last day or so and by this evening (Sunday, natch, when the pediatrician is closed) it was looking for all the world like he'd acquired the mother of all ear infections. This would not be a crisis except that the kids are supposed to be leaving Tuesday to spend this upcoming week with my in-laws, and as awesome as my MIL is, I would rather not send her off with a sick child even though she could most assuredly handle it. Especially since the plans for the week include swimming. So, on the off-chance that the nurse on call might be able to schedule me an appointment with the doc for tomorrow AM, I called the pediatrician's office.
The office being closed, I was referred to the phone operator of the affiliated hospital to connect me with the nurse. No big deal, except that the woman answering the phone from the covering nurse service identified herself as being affiliated with a huge children's hospital halfway across the state. That was odd, but she was a nice lady, and after confirming that she didn't have the authority to make me an appointment, she offered to connect me with the nurse on call at her hospital. Having been a mother for a combined approximately 30 years (kids are almost 8, almost 10, and 12) I figured I bloody well know an ear infection when I see one by now, but on a whim, I agreed to give my number and have the nurse call me back, which she did approximately two minutes later.
Long story short, the professional opinion is that he has swimmer's ear, NOT an ear infection. My first thought was that germ-ridden waterpark pools were to blame, but no: this is apparently a pH-change thing. She told, me, I kid you not, to dilute vinegar 1:1 in water and fill his ear with it for five minutes at a time several times a day. This, combined with ibuprofen and warm compresses, she swears will do the trick. What do you know. And how do we diagnose this over the phone, you might ask? Good question, and also a learning experience for me. Should any of you encounter this situation, there are two tests you can run. First, gently grab the rear edge of the ear just above the lobe and pull directly back, parallel to the ear. Second, press gently on the little "hill" that is in front of the opening to the ear. If either of those motions increase the child's discomfort, dingdingding we have a winner and the prize is a nice case of swimmer's ear.
As I type this, I can imagine my mother reading it and laughing about nothing being new under the sun! I'd completely forgotten till just now, but when we would go swimming as kids, she'd joke about "making a salad" in our ears...a drop of oil in each ear before we went swimming and a drop of vinegar afterward. Son of a gun: wish I'd remembered that beforehand. Glad I didn't let my maternal ego get in the way of talking to the nurse, anyway, since Thing One would have been the one to suffer for it. I continue to be amazed at how often I learn something when I politely give an expert the opportunity to share their hard-earned wisdom!