There’s nothing more refreshing in the summer than taking a trip to the lake or a dip in the pool. But with such fun comes risk in the form of swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is an infection caused by water becoming trapped in the ear canal and breeding bacteria. Learn the signs of swimmer’s ear, how to treat it and how to prevent it below.
Signs & Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
Common symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:
- Itchiness in ear
- Pain in ear that worsens when you tug on it
- Fullness/blocked sensation
- Drainage from ear
- Poor hearing
- Intense pain spreading to neck, face or head
- Swollen lymph nodes around ear/in neck
- Redness/swelling of skin around ear
Most of the time, swimmer’s ear is not a serious condition. If left untreated, however, there could be lasting effects like permanent hearing loss.
Treating Swimmer’s Ear
To treat swimmer’s ear, the ear canal must first be cleaned in order to help the eardrops reach the infected areas. A doctor may use a suction device or ear curette to clear discharge, earwax, flakey skin and other debris.
The doctor may prescribe eardrops that contain ingredients like acidic solution to restore the ear’s normal antibacterial environment, steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics to fight bacteria and antifungal medication to combat fungus.
They may also recommend over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce discomfort.
Preventing Swimmer’s Ear
Fortunately, swimmer’s ear can easily be prevented. Some steps you can take include:
- Not sticking foreign objects into the ears, even to try to dry up excess water. This can push debris further into the ear canal and even puncture the eardrum.
- Avoid swimming in water with high bacteria levels. Public bodies of water are typically marked with signs that say “no swimming” or “high bacteria level” signs, but you should also trust your gut; if the water looks murky or is suspiciously deserted, skip the swim.
- Dry your ears immediately after swimming to reduce chance of bacterial growth. You can do this with a hair dryer on the low setting or by simply swabbing the outer ear with a towel.
- Use swim plugs. These are the best method for protecting your ears against bacteria in water. One-size-fits-all earplugs can be purchased at the drugstore, or you can order custom-molded plugs from your audiologist’s office for maximum comfort and protection.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at Carolina Ear, Nose, Throat, Sinus & Allergy today.