swimmers ear

Don’t Let Swimmer’s Ear Drown Out Your Summer Plans

Effective Management of Swimmer’s Ear 

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an inflammation or infection of the outer ear canal. It’s a common condition, especially among swimmers and those engaging in water sports. Here’s what you need to know about identifying, treating, and preventing swimmer’s ear.

Identifying Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear symptoms can range from mild to severe and typically include:

  • Itching in the ear canal.
  • Slight redness inside the ear.
  • Mild discomfort, which can worsen. when pulling on the outer ear.
  • Drainage of clear, odorless fluid.

As the condition progresses, symptoms may intensify, leading to:

  • Increasing pain.
  • More extensive redness.
  • Discharge of pus.
  • Feeling of fullness inside the ear.
  • Mild hearing loss.

In advanced stages, individuals may experience:

  • Severe pain that may radiate to the face, neck, or side of the head.
  • Complete blockage of the ear canal.
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Fever.

Diagnosing Swimmer’s Ear

Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination of the ear. 

Treating Swimmer’s Ear

The goal of treatment is to stop the infection and allow the ear canal to heal. Treatment options may include:

  • Prescription ear drops: most commonly antibiotic ear drops or antibiotic/steroid combo ear drops depending on suspected cause and physical exam findings.
  • Keeping the ear free from moisture with the exception of prescribed ear drops.
  • Oral antibiotics: to be considered in more severe cases, based on physical exam.
  • Use of an ear wick: this is a small medical grade wick/expanding sponge made for the ear which can be placed in the ear by a healthcare provider while in office. This may be done in more severe cases where the ear canal is quite swollen; it can help the ear drops penetrate a swollen canal where they otherwise may not be able to reach.
    – Medication for pain relief: such as anti-inflammatories
  • Pain relief medications, such as  anti-inflammatory to alleviate discomfort.

Prevention Tips

Preventing swimmer’s ear is largely about keeping your ears dry and avoiding injury to the ear canal:

  • Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering.
  • Use ear plugs or a swimming cap to keep water out of your ears.
  • Avoid inserting foreign objects into the ear, including cotton swabs.
  • Protect your ears from irritants by using cotton balls when using hair sprays or dyes.

When to Visit Urgent Care

If you experience the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, especially if they are severe or worsening, it’s important to seek medical attention. Prompt treatment can prevent complications and more serious infections.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you suspect you have swimmer’s ear, please consult a healthcare professional.