To Swim or To Surf… Your Ears Want to Know!

To the beach or the pool, you ask? We say both, but take care of those ears!

There is a common misconception that Swimmer’s ear and Surfer’s ear are similar ailments, so we talked to Santa Cruz, CA family physician Hossein Hassani about dispelling that myth.

Swimmer’s ear, Hassani says, is an infection in the outer ear canal, most commonly caused when water is trapped in the external auditory canal, presenting a good medium for bacterial grow. This infection of the ear canal, otitis externa, is a common problem especially for children who spend a lot of time in the water.
Otitis Externa captured with the CellScope Oto

Otitis Externa captured with the CellScope Oto

Pain upon yawning or swallowing may indicate swimmer’s ear. If you gently wiggle the ear or press in front of the ear canal and the pain increases, there is a good chance there is an infection. Treat accordingly and avoid getting water in the ear until his treatment is done. To help prevent swimmer’s ear, after bathing or swimming, make sure to get all the water out of the ears by turning his head to each side,  dry gently with a towel, or use alcohol drops.
Hassani continues to explain that surfer’s ear, on the other hand, is excess cartilage growth in the external auditory canal due to prolonged exposure to cold water. Also referred to as exostosis or abnormal bone growth, it is most commonly seen in surfers who tend to spend hours in the ocean water. Irritation from cold wind and water exposure causes the bone surrounding the ear canal to develop new bony growth which constrict the ear canal. The ear canal is actually blocked by this condition, meaning that both water and wax can become trapped and give rise to infection.
Surfer's Ear taken with the CellScope Oto

Surfer’s Ear taken with the CellScope Oto

Surfer’s ear is a progressive condition, making it important to take preventative measures early, preferably whenever surfing. The condition is not limited to surfing and can occur in any activity with cold, wet, windy conditions (Kitesurfers, beware!).
Swimmers and surfers be warned, and take preventative measures and keep those ear canals as dry as possible. In case of an infection, consult your physician.

Dr. Q’s Tips for Summer Ear Care

Underwater portrait kids

In preparation for a summer full of fun in the sun, we asked Dr. Quillin, a Pediatrician in Webster, TX, to answer some burning questions we had about ear care this summer!

CellScope (CS): What are good ear practices for families spending a lot of time at the pool this summer?

Dr. Quillin (Dr. Q): A general recommendation is to make an alcohol:white vinegar solution in a 1:1 ratio and place drops in the ears every hour while swimming. The alcohol helps dry out residual water and the vinegar stabilizes the pH of the ear canal, so bacteria is less likely to grow and cause “swimmer’s ear”. (This should not be used in children with tubes or chronic perforation.)

CS: What is swimmer’s ear?

Dr. Q: Swimmer’s ear is an inflammation or infection of the outer ear canal. The infection is caused by bacteria infiltrating micro-fissures in the skin produced by drying of the ear canal.

CS: Is it more likely to be caused in a fresh water or the ocean?

Dr. Q: Fresh water and ocean water can both cause swimmer’s ear, but this occurrence is less common in those environments. It is most commonly caused from the chemicals that are used in swimming pools that can be more drying to the ear canal.

CS:  How do you identify swimmer’s ear?

Dr. Q: Swimmer’s ear is a very painful ear infection that is demonstrated by the tugging of the ear which in turn causes a stretch on the ear canal. A child may complain when a T-shirt is pulled over the head, pulling the ear. The child will also tend to guard the ear with a cupped hand.

CS:  If parents suspect swimmer’s ear what should they do?

Dr. Q: Seek care from their pediatrician to determine if antibiotic drops are needed.

CS:  Is it ok for kids with ear infections (AOM) to swim?

Dr. Q: Swimming with the typical otitis media (middle ear infection) is ok as long as the ear drum is not perforated.

CS: What do you tell parents who are flying with small kids and are nervous about the pressure?

Dr. Q: I advise that most children can equalize there eustachian tubes (pop their ears) without a problem. I caution parents who have children with colds, bad allergies and/or history of chronic ear infections that landings may create some pressure for these children. A physician might prescribe numbing drops in the latter case for air travel.

CS: What can they do in flight to soothe any pain from the pressure?

Dr. Q: Ibuprofen and/or topical anesthetic drops are my mainstay for children who are at risk. However, in-flight, if a child is experiencing problems popping their ears, I would recommend parents have kids chew on something, swallow liquids, or blow their nose to try and equalize the pressure. Ear pressure tends to be worse with longer flights and primarily on landing.

CS: Is it safe for kids with ear infections to travel or should an ear infection be cause to postpone a trip?

Dr. Q: A serious ear infection may be a cause for delaying travels. Milder ear infections and presence of fluid from a simple cold may present with similar ear pain. A preflight ear check once an ear infection has been treated is a good idea.

Dear CellScope… A Saved Visit to the PCP

AaronSolomon letter

Dear CellScope,

          I have had a clogged ear for the past two weeks. I used your iPhone otoscope and sent the image to you [through Seymour]. The doctor’s response was that it was not an ear infection but effusion, and that I should consult my physician. Ruling out otitis media and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics is as important as a positive finding. I went to an ENT today, and told him about my CellScope experience. I pulled out my iPhone and showed him the video. He said, “Well based on that image, I can clearly see that you have effusion.” He performed a myringotomy to drain the significant fluid behind my ear. Because I used CellScope, I avoided unnecessary antibiotics, avoided an extra office visit with my PCP who would have then referred me to an ENT, and was able to more quickly receive treatment.

           Keep up the good work.


A Case of the Mondays: Annie’s Oto Experience

Mondays are never fun. But imagine a Monday morning with a sick, crying daughter pulling at her ear and an important day at work. The epitome of stressful? We think yes.

Seymour user and mother of two, Annie Gullick, found herself in this predicament last week. She turned to her Oto for fast and reliable answers.


Annie, her husband, and their two daughters (Ellena on the left)

Annie’s daughter, Ellena, woke up last Monday morning at 6am complaining about pain in her right ear. Ellena has had ear infections in the past, and Annie was sure this was another onset. She knew the drill- trip to the doctor, scope the ear, antibiotic prescription, run to the pharmacy, and a day at home tending to her sick daughter. The problem this specific morning? Annie could not miss work.

Annie was able to scope Ellena’s ear and record a video. The Oto Eardrum Finder guided Annie directly to Ellena’s eardrum and ensured that she got a good view of everything. Annie submitted the exam to one of our on-call pediatricians, Dr. Rudnick, who was able to provide a response in under two hours. By 8am, Annie had seen Dr. Rudnick’s response and was at ease. Ellena luckily did not have an ear infection and would not require a visit to the doctor.

Annie saved herself a visit to the pediatrician, got to work on time, and reduced Monday morning stress. In her words, “everything was great!”

Introducing Seymour: Get Fast Answers to Your Kids’ Health Concerns

We are very excited to announce our recent launch of our new mobile app Seymour (See-More) available nationwide.  We are expanding beyond ear care to offer families a smarter way to care for their kids’ health concerns.

The Seymour app gives parents quick answers from a trusted pediatrician about their kids’ health.  Whether a parent spots an unfamiliar rash on their child or is questioning whether to take him into the doctor, Seymour gives parents 24/7 access to a trusted pediatrician to help determine next steps.


Seymour (See-More) is your trusted friend for managing your family’s health concerns.

“Our goal at CellScope is to give parents the tools they need to make informed decisions about their kids’ health from anywhere,” said Amy Sheng, Co-Founder of CellScope.  “When it comes to questions about common health conditions like skin rashes, bug bites and allergies, parents are often left in the dark not knowing whether to take their kid into the doctor, head to urgent care or watch and wait.  Rather than frantically search Google or WebMD for an answer, parents can turn to Seymour for peace of mind. “

Seymour wants to eliminate as much frustration and worry around helping parents get the answers they need for peace of mind.  This means making it easy to capture photos of health conditions that can be used by Seymour’s doctors to evaluate a health concern.  Seymour’s smart software features and phone attachments (including the Oto) guides parents each step of the way on how to take high quality skin and ear images from home.  And for just $10, parents can share the images with Seymour’s network of board-certified pediatricians for a personal assessment and treatment plan in under two hours* (First doctor opinion is free.)

Download the Seymour App

Learn More About Seymour

*You will not be able to receive a formal diagnosis or prescription.

A Trusted Doctor Friend On-Call: The Oto is Now Available in Every State!

Our mission at CellScope from the start has been to give families the tools they need to more conveniently manage their family’s health from anywhere.   We began by building the Oto, a device designed to reduce stress and worry around the most common cause of pediatric visits, the pesky ear infection.  The Oto is an iPhone otoscope (the device your doc uses to peek inside your child’s ear) that enables you to take a video of your child’s ears when you suspect an infection and share it with a doctor for review.

Last January, we launched the Oto in California along with a remote care service that allowed parents to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan within 2 hours from our network of board-certified pediatricians.  Since our launch we have engaged with CellScope families to understand what matters most to them when it comes to their kids’ health.

As a parent, worrying is a full time job.  When your child is in pain and you don’t know what is wrong it can be overwhelming. You want answers quickly and Google can only get you so far, and often makes things seem worse. You are left deciding whether to miss work and schlep your child to a germ-filled doctor’s office or wait and see if he gets better.

We want to make it easy and affordable for you to get the answers you need. We are excited to announce that Oto is now available nationwide along with our medical opinion service to give you peace of mind for your family’s ear health concerns.  Share a video with one of our board-certified pediatricians and get a personalized review to help you determine the proper next steps to take.*   Think of it like having a trusted doctor friend on call 24 hours a day.  

Order your Oto today!

Interested in other health related concerns?

Join our mailing list to be the first to hear about our upcoming expansion beyond ear care.

*You will not be able to receive a formal diagnosis or prescription.

The Importance of Watchful Waiting for Ear Infections

No parent likes it when their child is sick but with back to school and flu season approaching, it is inevitable. As parents our inclination is to do whatever we can to make our children feel better as fast as possible. However, with ear infections the best approach is often watchful waiting and not prescribing antibiotics immediately.

According to Harvard Medical School: Acute ear infections are the most common infection for which antibiotics are prescribed to children. However, roughly 80 percent of children with acute ear infections get better without antibiotic treatment.

Continue reading