Swimmer’s Ear, or otitis externa, occurs when water that contains bacteria enters the ear. The moist environment of the ear canal enables the bacteria to flourish, causing inflammation and infection.
Swimmer’s Ear Signs & Symptoms
Swimmer’s Ear is usually caused by excess water entering the ear canal, hence the name. It can also occur when dirt, sand, or other debris enters the ear canal. Scratching the ear canal or cleaning it with a foreign object can also lead to infection, as can allergies, bony growths in the ear canal, bubble baths, soap, shampoo, excessive perspiration, and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
The first sign of Swimmer’s Ear is minor pain, accompanied by a pus-like drainage from the ear that may be yellow or green and a red, swollen ear canal. You may experience hearing loss and itchiness. As the condition worsens, pain will increase and symptoms will become more pronounced. Eventually you might experience complete blockage of the ear canal, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.
Seek medical care at the first sign of an infection. Severe pain or fever warrants an immediate call to your doctor or a trip to the ER.
Swimmer’s Ear Treatment & Prevention
Treatment for Swimmer’s Ear involves eliminating the infection by controlling the bacteria in your ear. You will be prescribed eardrops containing antibiotics, steroids, or other antifungal medication. Over-the-counter drugs can help relieve pain.
Be sure to avoid water-related activities when treating Swimmer’s Ear. It’s a good idea to refrain from wearing earplugs or headphones, too.
In order to avoid contracting Swimmer’s Ear in the future, make sure to dry your ears thoroughly after contact with water, whether you’ve been swimming or bathing. Wear specially designed swimmer’s earplugs to prevent water from entering the ear canals, and avoid swimming when signs warning of high bacterial counts are posted. As a preventive measure, you can mix together a solution containing equal parts white vinegar and rubbing alcohol, and placing drops in your ears before and after swimming or bathing. This will dissuade bacteria and fungi from growing, and encourage drying.