What is Swimmer’s Ear?
It’s that time of year again, for swimming at pool parties and taking trips to the lake. With swimming sometimes comes “swimmer’s ear”, or otitis externa. Swimmer’s ear is an infection inside the ear canal that is caused by bacteria commonly found in the water and soil. Swimming can cause excess moisture to remain in the ear, leading to the infection- thus the name swimmer’s ear. Other causes include heavy sweating, humid weather or scratches inside the ear canal.
Under normal circumstances, the ear produces a waxy substance, called cerumen, which helps repel water from lingering inside the ear and also prevents bacteria from growing inside the ear canal. Infection results if the ear’s natural defenses aren’t enough to prevent bacterial growth.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe. Mild symptoms include itching inside of the ear, redness, discomfort, or clear odorless fluid draining from the ear. Moderate symptoms include muffled hearing, pus discharging from the ear, and a feeling of fullness inside of the ear. A severe case of swimmer’s ear may cause a fever, swelling in the lymph nodes of the neck, and severe pain that may radiate to the face and neck.
How is it Treated?
It is important to treat swimmer’s ear as soon as possible. If the infection is not properly treated, it may lead to more serious complications like long-term infection, temporary hearing loss, long-term damage to the bone and cartilage inside of the ear, or a deep tissue infection called cellulitis. It is time to see a doctor if there is no improvement of symptoms after one week, if symptoms worsen, if the person feels dizzy, or if pain is not controlled with over-the-counter medications. A doctor can diagnose swimmer’s ear based on the symptoms and examination of the ear. The infection can be treated with prescription ear drops that will help reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and help restore the ear’s normal condition.
How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear
Over–the-counter ear drops like Swim-Ear® can be used to prevent swimmer’s ear if they are used after exposure to water. Over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen, may also be used to reduce any pain.
Enjoy your swimming this summer, but be sure to try and prevent swimmer’s ear. As always, Topeka Pharmacy is here to help you answer your health questions and concerns!