Swimmer’s ear is a common problem affecting both adults and children. Symptoms of an ear infection from swimming present similarly to those of an inner ear infection, and children can experience considerable discomfort until beginning treatment. People need to be vigilant about preventing infection, recognizing the signs of this condition, and seeking out immediate treatment. Here are some of the most important things to know about swimmer’s ear.
What Is Swimmer’s Ear?
A swimmer’s ear water remains trapped in the ear, leading to the formation of bacteria or fungus. The bacteria cause inflammation of the outer ear which leads to an acute infection that can spread the length of the ear canal extending from the eardrum to the outer ear. The condition can persist or worsen until beginning treatment.
Swimmer’s ear infections are particularly prevalent among children who have spent a lot of time in the water. However, it is important to note that it is possible to contract this type of infection without swimming. Children could get swimmer’s ear simply from taking a bath or a shower.
Children are more vulnerable to swimmer’s ear than adults because they have particularly small ear canals where water cannot easily drain. Living in a hot and humid area can increase risk exposure. Also, swimming in a lake or a river could be more likely to result in swimmer’s ear because they contain more organic matter and bacteria than pools.
The symptoms of swimmer’s ear can vary in severity, but symptoms will worsen after an infection has been present for more than a few days. Here are some of the most common symptoms that patients experience;
- Pain that can feel sharp or throbbing
- Tenderness to the touch or tugging
- Swelling and redness around the outer ear and ear canals
- Discharge that appears off-white or yellow
- Hearing loss
All of the symptoms associated with this condition usually improve significantly soon after a patient begins treatment. Hearing problems attributable to irritation and obstructions in the ear canal resolve themselves when inflammation subsides.
A physician can diagnose swimmer’s ear during an examination. The preferred treatment for a swimming-related infection is usually ear drops. This form of medication may contain compounds to dry out excess moisture, restore the ear’s typical bacterial environment, or eliminate the infection with an antibiotic agent.
Wearing earplugs is one of the most effective ways to keep water out of the ear while swimming. You can use plugs made of wax that mold to the shape of the ear or have a doctor use a mold to design custom ear protection.
Remind children to shake water out of their ears and help them towel off their outer ears. You should never insert cotton swabs in children’s ears.
Some individuals may benefit from using drops that dry out the ear and kill bacteria before infections develop. However, this proactive remedy may not be right for everyone, so ask your doctor before using drops.
If you need help diagnosing and treating swimmer’s ear, first contact your physician and then HEAR Center to make an appointment. The team at HEAR Center can provide comprehensive treatment for this uncomfortable condition.
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