With summer around the corner, kids and adults alike will be spending more time in the water – and that can give rise to Otitis Externa or Swimmer’s Ear. Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal is mostly known as a cause of discomfort for children, but it can affect swimmers of all ages. It can occur when moisture becomes trapped in the ear canal for long periods of time, allowing germs to grow and cause an infection. Germs found in pools or other recreational water areas and skin conditions such as eczema or seborrhea can also contribute to swimmer’s ear.
Depending on the level of infection, symptoms can present themselves as mild, moderate, or advanced.
Mild symptoms include:
• Itching in the ear canal
• Pus drainage from the infected ear
• Discomfort that increases when you pull on the outer ear or push on the little bump in front of your ear
• Redness or inflammation of the ear
If the condition worsens, moderate to advanced symptoms range from:
• Excessive fluid drainage
• Muffled hearing
• Feeling of fullness inside of the ear
• Severe pain that travels to the face, neck, or side of head
• Swelling in lymph nodes in the neck
Swimmer’s ear is a separate condition from the more common childhood middle ear infection. If you can move the outer ear without pain then your condition is most likely not swimmer’s ear.
Swimmer’s ear is treated with a prescription of antibiotic eardrops, which will help reduce the redness and pain anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Help prevent swimmer’s ear by using a swimming cap, earplugs, or swim molds while swimming. Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering.
To be safe, always consult your healthcare provider if you feel any pain, discomfort or drainage from your ears.
Sources: http://www.entnet.org/content/swimmers-ear, http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater