A swimmer’s ear infection affects the external auditory canal, which connects the eardrum to the exterior of the skull. It is frequently caused by water that lingers inside the ear, which creates a wet environment that promotes the growth of bacteria. Otitis externa is another name for a swimmer’s ear.
In most cases, ear drops can be used to treat a swimmer’s ear. By administering prompt medical attention, the risk of getting swimmer’s ear complications can be prevented.
What causes a swimmer’s ear?
Swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection that is typically caused by water that has remained in the outer ear canal for an extended length of time, creating a moist environment conducive to bacterial growth. Anyone can contract swimmer’s ear, however, youngsters are especially susceptible.
Signs and symptoms of swimmer’s ear
Symptoms of a swimmer’s ear are often mild at first, but they can worsen if the condition is not treated promptly. Commonly, doctors define the progression of a swimmer’s ear as mild, moderate, and advanced.
These symptoms include:
- Ear itchiness
- Redness or tenderness in the ears
- Ear drainage
- A feeling of blockage in the ears
- Decreased hearing
- Pain in the ears that radiate in the face and neck
- Inflammation of the lymph nodes
If you have an excessively high temperature or a severe earache, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Swimmer’s Ear Pain
Occasionally, a swimmer’s ear can be extremely painful. The fact that a swimmer’s ear causes pain when the earlobe is moved or tugged differentiates the condition from other middle ear ailments.
Swimmer’s ear can cause the ears to become itchy and swollen, which is normally unpleasant. Painkillers may be beneficial, however eliminating the obstruction, moisture, or blockage may alleviate the pain faster.
How is a swimmer’s ear diagnosed?
Before diagnosing a swimmer’s ear, the ear canal must be carefully inspected using an otoscope. A patient with a swimmer’s ear would often have a reddish ear canal with scaly and swollen patches. Additionally, the skin of the ear canal may peel or become dry. During the evaluation, the eardrum will be checked for indications of perforation or injury.
Can Swimmer’s Ear Be Prevented?
You are more prone to get swimmer’s ear the more time you spend in the water. Take the necessary precautions to shield your ears from moisture if your occupation or pastime requires you to frequently be around water.
The following are some fundamental precautions against swimmer’s ear:
- After being exposed to water, thoroughly dry your ears.
- Avoid inserting sharp objects into the ear canal to prevent discomfort and infection.
- Use appropriate hearing protection, such as earplugs designed for swimmers or a shower/swimming cap, to keep your ears dry.
Swimmer’s ear treatment
Typically, a swimmer’s ear is treated with a combination of antibiotics, steroids, and an acidic solution. If the ear canal is significantly dilated, the eardrops may not be able to reach the affected area. If this is the case, it’s best to see an audiologist for proper assessment and prompt treatment.
For the medication drops to be effective, it may be necessary to clear extra earwax. This should be done by an audiologist. You run the risk of pushing earwax deeper into your ear canal or, worse, harming your eardrum if you attempt to remove earwax manually.
Swimmers Ears Risk Factors
If you have had swimmer’s ear before or are vulnerable to ear infections, you must take further care to avoid developing the illness.
Listed below are some risk factors for swimmer’s ear:
- Swimming in contaminated or unclean water
- Putting sharp, foreign objects in the ear canal
- Wearing hearing aids, headsets, or earplugs that increase the possibility of moisture getting trapped in the ear
- Having psoriasis, acne, or eczema as pre-existing skin issues
Is the swimmer’s ear in a serious condition?
Swimmer’s ear is typically harmless if treated promptly. If the condition is not treated, it could develop into something more dangerous, such as temporary hearing loss. Some cases of swimmer’s ear may resolve on their own, but for those with greater risk or history of ear infections, prompt medical treatment is necessary to prevent chronic otitis externa.
When to see a doctor for swimmer’s ear
Depending on the severity of the swimmer’s ear, it may be fine to wait a day or two for the sensation to subside, or you can attempt a few home remedies. However, you should see a doctor urgently if the symptoms worsen rapidly, you develop a fever, and/or over-the-counter pain relievers do not provide any relief.