There’s nothing like a dip in a cool pool on a hot summer day. But unfortunately for some, the price of refreshment is a painful ear infection commonly known as “swimmer’s ear.”
Swimmer’s ear is more prevalent in children and young adults, however, anyone can suffer from it. Non-contagious and different than a middle ear infection, swimmer’s ear is caused by a growth of bacteria when water stays in the outer ear canal for a long time. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of this infection can include:
- Pain when the outer ear is tugged or when pressure is put on the part of the outer ear that sticks out in front of the ear canal
- Itchiness inside the ear
- Drainage from the ear (often yellow and foul-smelling)
- Redness and swelling in the ear
- Muffled hearing
How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear
Despite the name, “swimmer’s ear” (also known as otitis externa) is often caused by non-swimming-related activities. Moisture can collect in the outer ear canal from exposure to rain, showering, bathing, or heavy perspiration. The good news is that you can still cool off in the pool, lake, or sprinkler this summer while minimizing the chances that you’ll be left with ear pain.
An ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure. Here are some tips that will help you keep water out of your ears, preventing the moisture build-up that can lead to swimmer’s ear.
- Keep your ears dry with a bathing cap, ear plugs, or even custom-fit swim molds if you’re a frequent swimmer or regularly suffer from ear infections.
- Use a towel to dry your ears after swimming or showering, tilting the ears down to allow water to drain out of the ear canal.
- If you or your child has a lot of water in their ears, you can hold a hairdryer several inches from your ear to help dry it out. Be sure you use the lowest heat and fan setting.
- Keep cotton swabs out of your ear. Ear wax is actually protective in keeping the moisture out of your ears that causes bacteria to grow.
When to See a Doctor for Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear will often resolve on its own, however, if your pain is persistent or you have discharge coming from your ear, you should call a doctor. You may need antibiotic ear drops depending on the severity of your infection.
With convenient offices in Memphis and Bartlett, ENT Memphis can diagnose and treat swimmer’s ear, as well as other conditions of the ear, nose, and throat. You can conveniently schedule an appointment online or by calling our office.