What Is Swimmer Ear?

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is an inflammation of the visible or outer part of the ear and ear canal. Pain in the skin of the ear canal characterizes this disorder, which also occurs in other species. The inflammation can be caused by active fungal or bacterial infection or it can be only secondary to dermatitis with no microbial infection.

Causes of swimmer ear

Swimming in water that has high levels of bacteria, like a river or a lake, increases your risk of getting swimmer’s ear. Swimming is only one of several ways to get otitis externa. You can also have the condition if hairspray, hair dyes or other kind’s liquids get into your ear canal. Water and other foreign liquids in your ear provide a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi that cause this disorder.

Other risk factors for swimmer’s ear include small ear canal and excessive ear wax that both trap water more easily, excessive cleaning of the ear canal, and scratching or scraping of the ear canal using objects like cotton swabs. Wearing devices such as swimming cap or hearing aid that may trap water also increases your chances of having swimmer’s ear.

Symptoms of swimmer ear

Symptoms at the onset include slight redness and itching of the skin in ear canal, mild discomfort, and some discharge of odorless fluid. As the infection progresses, symptoms include excessive fluid drainage, redness of skin, pus discharge, feeling of fullness in the ear, muffled or decreased hearing, and pain that worsens on moving your outer ear.

Severe cases of swimmer’s ear have the following symptoms: severe pain, lymph nodes in the neck, and flaking or scaly skin of the outer ear.

How swimmer ear is diagnosed?

Physical test is usually used to establish the clinical diagnosis of swimmer’s ear. The physician may find it difficult to see the eardrum using an otoscope at the first examination since the inflammation narrows the ear canal and causes debris and drainage. Sometimes the diagnosis is presumptive and patients are required return visits to completely examine the ear.

How to treat swimmer ear?

The goal of treating swimmer’s ear is to stop or slow down the progress of the infection and allow the ear canal to heal. Doctors usually use ear curette to clean away clumps of earwax, discharge, and flaky skin.

This is needed so that medication gets to the infected area. Eardrops that contain acidic solution, steroid, antibiotic, and antifungal mediation are also prescribed.

How to prevent swimmer ear?

You can avoid swimmer’s ear by keeping your ears dry all the time, using at-home preventive eardrops, swimming in clean and treated water, and avoiding substances such as hairspray and hair dyes that can irritate your ears. Also, do not attempt to dig out hardened or excess earwax with hairpin or paper clip.


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