With summer right around the bend, many of us are looking forward to spending time outdoors. With the rising temperatures, many of us head out of our (hopefully) cool homes to spend the day cooling off. What better way to spend a hot summer day than to spend it at the beach or the pool! However, there is a little-known danger associated with excess moisture in the ear that can lead to a common infection known as swimmer’s ear or Otitis Externa. Nevertheless, this condition doesn’t just affect swimmers. Swimmer’s ear can also occur from taking a bath or shower, and from living in a hot and humid climate. When trapped moisture and water build up in the ear canal for a prolonged period, bacteria can grow on the skin of the outer and in the ear canal, leading to an infection.
Swimmer’s ear is a painful condition that will keep you out of the water this summer. However, knowing the warning signs can help you catch and nip this problem in the bud. When swimmer’s ear is caught early, it can be treated quickly. But once this infection progresses and becomes more severe, antibiotics are needed. The warning signs of Otitis Externa or swimmer’s ear often include:
- Redness in your ear
- Itchiness in ear canal
- Feeling of fullness in ear
- Decreased/muffled hearing
- Ear drainage (i.e. clear fluid, pus)
As always, it is always best to take preventative measures to help stop this infection from occurring in the first place. Or for those moments when you are caught off guard, know some effective treatment methods. Make sure you’re able to stay in the water this summer by following these simple swimmer’s ear prevention and treatment tips.
- Swimmer’s ear can also occur when your ear canals become “plugged” and unventilated for prolonged periods of time. Hearing aids, headphones, and earplugs can close up your ear canal, and this can lead to moisture buildup, so take the proper precautions when using such items. Limit your wearing time, and make sure they are clean before they enter your ear!
- Do you often clean your ears with Q-Tips? If so, you may want to stop performing this potentially harmful habit. Cleaning your ears with cotton swabs, Q-Tips, and even your fingers can scratch and damage the delicate skin of the ear canal. So a good rule of thumb is to remember never to stick anything in your ear!
- It is imperative that you carefully dry your ears after swimming or bathing. This can be done gently with a towel, or you can assist your ears with the drainage process by tilting your head parallel to the ground while gently pulling on your earlobe. When you pull on the earlobe to straighten the ear canal, the excess water can drain out of your ear. Just make sure to catch the water with a towel or cotton ball!
- If your ears are sensitive and you find yourself, or your children, are prone to swimmer’s ear, invest in a good set of ear plugs. You can find generic ones in stores, or if you are looking for a custom set, make an appointment with your audiologist. An audiologist can custom make a set of ear plugs for you or your child that will keep water out of your ears while you are swimming or bathing.
When it comes to swimmer’s ear, it is best to consult a medical professional. While there are home remedies available, they may not be enough. If you believe you have swimmer’s ear, make an appointment with your doctor, this way your ear can be assessed and a treatment plan can be created.