The arrival of the summer season brings an increase in the incidence of swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear(acute otitis externa) is a painful condition resulting from infection of the outer ear. Water gets trapped in the ear canal, and bacterial or fungal organisms can infect the thin skin lining. You don’t have to go swimming to get swimmers ear, water from baths, showers or sweat can lead bacterial overgrowth and infection. Cleaning the ears with cotton swabs can also lead to infection.
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include itching inside the ear, ear pain and tenderness, hearing loss, or drainage. If tugging on the ear or pressing the tab in front of the ear canal(tragas) causes tenderness, you may have swimmer’s ear.
Treatment of swimmer’s ear includes careful cleaning of the ear canal and the application of anti-bacterial or anti-fungal drops. If you do not have access to medical care, you can make your own ear drops using a mixture of rubbing alcohol and vinegar(assuming you do not have a perforated ear drum or tube in your ear). Oral antibiotics are not necessary for swimmer’s ear, topical treatment is best.
Prevent swimmer’s ear by keeping your ears dry. After swimming or bathing, use a dry towel, tissue or hair dryer to dry your ears. Do not use cotton swabs-they can pack in ear wax and dirt deeper into the canal.
Keep your ears dry to enjoy summer swimming without the swimmer’s ear!