You may have heard about swimmers and their struggle with nasty ear infections, also known as swimmer’s ear. It can be a cause of pain and discomfort, especially when left untreated. Unlike common childhood ear infections, which occur in the middle ear, swimmer’s ear occurs in the outer ear (the ear canal).
How the Infection Forms
Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, occurs when water is left in the ear canal for an extended length of time, whether the water be from a pool, ocean, or shower. As the germs continue to grow in number, the infection forms. The infection could also form by inserting cotton tips in your ear canal, or by water infecting a wound in your ear. While swimmer’s ear can happen at any age, it commonly occurs with children. Symptoms of the infection are redness/ swelling of the ear, pain, itchiness, and pus.
How to Treat the Infection
If you or your loved ones end up with swimmer’s ear, do not postpone your trip to the doctor. If left untreated, the pain may continue to escalate and can at times become unbearable. Doctors will usually prescribe antibiotic ear drops, but may also prescribe oral antibiotics if the drops fail to clear the infection. In the meantime, be sure to avoid swimming and getting your ears wet until the infection is fully cured.
How to Prevent the Infection
Swimmer’s ear can be a very unpleasant experience, making it something everyone wants to avoid. Thankfully, certain steps can be taken to prevent the infection.
Try to keep your ears dry while swimming. This can be done by using a swimming cap or ear plugs.
If your ears get wet, make sure to dry it with a towel whilst tilting your head or pulling your ears to help loosen any water that may have gotten stuck.
You may also purchase special swimmers’ ear drops, which are applied after showering and typically followed by drying your ears with a blowdryer held an arm’s distance from the ear.
While it may be tempting, don’t use cotton buds to clear your ear canal. This could push ear wax further into your ear and worsen your the condition of any water trapped inside.
Should you start showing symptoms, refrain from scratching your ears— this could aggravate it further.