What is Swimmer’s Ear and How Can You Prevent It?

During the warmer weather many of us enjoy a cool dip in the pool or lake to cool off. However, if you have ever experienced swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) you may think twice before diving in! Swimmer’s ear is a painful condition that commonly affects children, however we are all at risk of getting it. Did you know that there are millions of cases every year? The peak period is between June and August.

Swimmer’s Ear: What Should Know

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the skin of the ear canal. It can be extremely painful because of inflammation and swelling. It’s called swimmer’s ear because swimmers are up to 5 times more likely to develop the condition.

It can, however, also be caused by humidity as it is caused by water or moisture becoming trapped within the ear canal. This leads to infection due to the potential presence of bacteria in the water. Bacteria thrives in warm, moist environments, so our narrow ear canal can be a perfect home.

Recognizable symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:

  • A full or clogged feeling in the ear
  • Sound becomes muffled
  • intense pain
  • swelling
  • sometimes discharge
  • Tinnitus
  • Temporary hearing loss

“How do you get swimmer’s ear?”

As mentioned above, infection is caused by the introduction of bacteria, in this case carried into the ear canal via water. Bear in mind that bacteria levels are much higher in untreated water such as in the ocean or rivers and lakes.

When that moisture becomes trapped and the bacteria start to breed, infection occurs. This leads to painful swelling and inflammation because the ear canal is such a narrow site. In children, it’s an even tighter space. This is also why they are more prone to swimmer’s ear.

You may also be at a higher risk if you use Q-tips or have psoriasis or eczema as any scratches can cause damage to the skin of the inner ear allowing an entry point for bacteria.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

Follow these simple steps to protect your ears:

  • When swimming, use earplugs and a swim cap.
  • After swimming, diving or splashing, drain any trapped water by tilting your head each side. Gently pull on your earlobe to help remove the water.
  • Next, use a soft dry towel to remove any water or residue.
  • Avoid using Q-tips, scratching or inserting anything into your ears.
  • You can gently use a hairdryer on its lowest setting to help remove moisture from your ears.

Please speak to a physician for treatment if you suspect you have swimmer’s ear. Any associated hearing loss is usually temporary, but if you have concerns please call us today on 702-997-2964 or click here to request an appointment.

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