What is Swimmer's Ear?
Swimmer's ear is a painful infection of the structure of the outer ear. Medically termed Otitis Externa, this uncomfortable malady affects many children and adults who are frequent swimmers. Though common, it can be dangerous if left untreated. That's why your ENT doctor at West Coast Ear, Nose and Throat in Simi Valley, Ventura County, Camarillo, and Thousand Oaks, CA wants you aware of the symptoms, treatments and ways to prevent swimmer's ear.
What happens and how
Swimmer's ear usually is very painful. It is caused by water/moisture becoming trapped in the ear canal. This moisture contains harmful bacteria, usually staph, strep, or Pseudomonas. Additionally, the outer ear may become red, puffy and even show signs of drainage. When the infection is severe, the lymph nodes near the affected ear swell, and the patient may run a fever.
Ear infections, including Otitis Externa, potentially may cause hearing loss. Infection results from moisture and bacteria in the ear canal. However, as the infection heals, hearing usually returns to normal.
Other causes for swimmer's ear include:
- Wax, or cerumen, build-up in the ear canal
- Minor irritations and lacerations from scratching an itchy ear due to eczema or psoriasis
- Foreign object in the ear canal (avoid cleaning it with Q-tips)
- Colds or the flu
While most of these ear infections are acute and resolve within days with proper care, Otitis Externa may become chronic as evidenced by symptoms lasting three months or more.
Do you have swimmer's ear?
If you do, you are not alone. American Family Physician reports that one percent of Americans have this ear problem at one time or other. If you experience signs of swimmer's ear, contact your ENT doctor right away. They will visually inspect your outer ear and ear canal. Antibiotics, in the form of ear drops, are the normal course of treatment; steroids reduce inflammation, and over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen ease pain.
Preventive measures include:
- Keeping your ears warm and dry
- Wearing ear plugs in the pool
- Wearing a shower cap when bathing or showering
- Toweling dry your head and ears after being in the water
Yes, swimmer's ear occurs frequently. However, don't take it lightly. Avoid complications by getting treatment for your symptoms right away at West Coast Ear, Nose and Throat. To arrange an appointment at one of our four convenient offices in Simi Valley, Ventura County, Camarillo, and Thousand Oaks, CA, call (805) 379-9646.