During hot summers, swimming is a popular way to beat the heat. There are precautions that you should take when swimming, as swimmer’s ear is a common occurrence with more than 200,000 US cases per year.
What is swimmer’s ear?
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal, from the eardrum to the outside of the head. It is generally caused by water remaining in the ear after swimming, thus called “swimmer’s ear”. The trapped water creates a moist environment that helps bacteria grow causing the infection. It can be painful and is easily treatable by a medical professional-so if you are experiencing ear pain, you should see a doctor or ENT.
- Redness and swelling of outer ear and ear canal
- Pain to touch
- Drainage from ear canal
- Itchiness inside ear
While treatment will depend on the severity of the infection, swimmer’s ear is usually treated with eardrops from your doctor. To determine treatment, your doctor may take a sample of any drainage to see which medicine will work the best. Medications can include antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesic, anesthetic, and steroid. A pain reliever may also be recommended for relief.
The best way to protect against infection is to keep your ear canal dry. A few tips to help keep your ears dry and protected during a summer filled with swimming:
- Be sure to dry your ears well with a towel after swimming.
- To release any water in the ears, tilt your head to each side and pull on your earlobe to straighten out ear canal so that it can drain.
- If you swim often, wear either earplugs or a swim cap. Your audiologist can make molds that fit your ears for earplugs.
- Monitor the bacterial count when swimming at the beach, and stay out of the water on the days that the count is high.