Now that summer is here, we can all enjoy great outdoor activities such as boating, hiking, swimming, waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing, and if you’re lucky enough to spend your vacation somewhere exciting, surfing. With the right precautions, water sports can be a great way to safely spend time with your family and friends, while getting fresh air and exercise.
Don’t let summer’s ear infections curtail all the fun.
Otitis externa (“swimmer’s ear”), is an often seen problem in the summertime by Ears, Nose and Throat doctors. Patients with swimmer’s ear experience mild to excruciating pain, if left untreated or if the infection spreads; which leads to blockage and drainage problems. It’s no fun!
What causes “swimmer’s ear”
Water that remains in your ear after swimming, excess moisture in your ear from heavy perspiration or prolonged humidity. The water remaining in your ear can create an environment for bacterial growth.
Cleaning your ear with a cotton swab, pen, bobby pin, finger, headphones and/or hearing aids can scratch or abrasions in your ear canal.
Haircare products and jewelry can cause allergic reactions and skin conditions that promote infection.$
- Mild to moderate itching in the ear canal
- Redness inside the ear(s)
- Discomfort made worse when pulling on the outer ear (pinna, or auricle) or pushing on the little “bump” (tragus) in front of your ear
- Drainage of clear, odorless fluid
- Increased pain, leading to severe pain that may radiate to your face, neck or side of your head
- Discharge of pus
- Feeling of fullness inside your ear and partial blockage of your ear canal by swelling, fluid and debris
- Muffled or decreased level of hearing
- Swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck
- Swimmer’s ear reacts well to antibiotic eardrops, especially when treated in the early stages.
- Some activities such as diving body surfing and waterskiing can cause injury to the eardrum as well by sending a pressure wave toward the eardrum, which can injure it.
Swimmer’s ear prevention tips
1. Preventive care such as drying your outer ears thoroughly after exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing. Wipe them slowly and gently with a soft towel or cloth.
2. Tip your head to the side to help water drain from your ear canal after swimming or showering.
3. You can dry your ears with a blow dryer if you put it on the lowest setting and hold it at least a foot (about 0.3 meters) away from the ear.
4. Keep a lookout for signs alerting swimmers to high bacterial counts and don’t swim on those days.
5. Never put foreign objects in your ear.
6. Protect your ears from irritants by putting cotton balls in your ears while applying haircare products and hair dyes.
Talk to your doctor before you go swimming after recent ear infections or surgery.
When to see a doctor
Contact your physician/ENT specialist if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms of swimmer’s ear, even if they’re mild, however, you should call your doctor immediately or visit an emergency room if you are experiencing severe pain and/or fever.
For more info on ear care read: Should You Use Cotton Tip Swabs to Clean Your Ears?
Make annual hearing tests a part of your health regiment.
Treat any hearing loss before it turns into something bigger.
Call the specialists at Cedar Crest ENT if you are experiencing any of the swimmer’s ear signs/symptoms and to schedule your annual hearing appointment today 610-770-9797!
1251 S. Cedar Crest Blvd, Suite 110
Serving the Greater Lehigh Valley, Poconos, PA Area