Swimmers Ear: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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Swimmers Ear: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

As the cold season is ending, many people are now excited for some fun under the sun, with many Aussies about to flock to the beaches and pools to cool off. While more time in the water is fun, this also means that there’s the risk of getting the Swimmer’s Ear. But what is Swimmer’s Ear anyway?

I did the research and got insight from an expert home doctor in Brisbane, so read on to learn all about it!

What is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear is an infection located in the outer ear canal, running from the eardrum to the outside of one’s head. This infection is often brought on by water remaining in the ear after swimming, which creates a moist environment that would aid in bacterial growth. It is also known as external otitis and is different from middle ear infection.

The infection can occur either in acute or chronic forms, either lasting for a short or long period.

What Causes Swimmer’s Ear?
As mentioned, the swimmer’s ear is caused by a bacterial infection, which results from getting water inside the ear canal. It comes from the common bacterial infection from pseudomonas, streptococcus, or staphylococcus bacteria.

When you have a wet ear canal, it’s easier for it to get infected, especially when the water isn’t clean. The water tends to be trapped by earwax, making the skin soggy, which will act as the incubator for bacteria to begin collecting and growing.

If your ear canal suffers from damage or irritation, it increases the risk of the infection. Here are some of the risk factors and causes of swimmer’s ear:

● The most common cause is excessive water exposure from swimming, diving, kayaking, surfing, among other water sports.
● Dirty water delivers bacteria to your ear canal
● Cleaning your ears using a cotton bud, scratching inside the ears, or wearing hearing aids, as this may cause cuts and abrasions in the ear canal linings, exposing them to bacterial infection.
● Chemical irritation from hairspray, hair dye, or shampoo that may enter the ear canal, irritating its tissues
● Middle ear infection may trigger inflammation or infection in your ear canal
● Narrow ear canals may make it difficult for water to drain as efficiently
● Diabetes can make your earwax alkaline, making it a hospital environment for infection
● Folliculitis is an infected hair follicle, which can trigger infections
● You may develop a swimmer’s ear if you are allergic or have a fungal reaction to something in the ears.
● Those who have skin problems like eczema don’t have as much of a protective layer of skin compared to those with normal skin, increasing the chances of getting the condition.

The Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
These are the common signs and symptoms of a swimmer’s ear:

● The first sign is your ear feeling full, sometimes feeling itchy as well
● The ear canal would swell, with fluid or foul-smelling green or yellow pus coming out of your ear
● You may feel pain, especially as you move the outer portion of your ear
● The ear canal may swell shut, with the side of your face swelling
● Your neck’s lymph nodes may enlarge, so it’s hard or painful to move or open your jaw
● Temporary hearing loss and/or noises in the ear like buzzing or humming
● Popping sensation or tenderness when moving your ear or jaw
● There is a. sense of fullness or pressure in the affected hear
● Children may feel severe pain when their ear is itched, moved, touched. They may also be more irritable from the pain and discomfort.

Diagnosis and Treatment
Swimmer’s ear will be diagnosed with a physical examination by your GP or health professional, who will check your ear canal using the otoscope. He will know that you have a swimmer’s ear if the skin of your ear canal looks red, scaled, and is peeling, while your eardrum appears inflamed and swollen. The GP will then perform a microscopic exam on the discharge of your ear canal, which confirms the cause of your infection, whether it is from bacteria or fungi.

The typical treatment would be medicated ear drops. In most cases, the ear drops will improve your symptoms within 1-3 days. If not, then it’s best to see your GP again.

There are other treatments as well, including:

● Removing water from the ears after water exposure
● Cleaning the ear canal and keeping it dry by using an earplug or cotton with Vaseline
● Avoid using hearing aids (until the swelling stops) and scratching the inside of your ear with a cotton swab
● Painkillers
● Heat packs placed on the ear
● Antibiotic or steroid-based ear drops
● Oral antibiotics and sometimes antihistamines to reduce itching
● Anti-fungal preparations
● Homemade ear drop mix with ½ rubbing alcohol, ¼ white vinegar, ¼ distilled water to acidify your ear canal to prevent infections and treat mild ones

For those with worst-case scenarios, surgery might be performed when treating and draining infected skull bones. Fortunately, most cases are mild and can be treated without surgery.

There are also ways to prevent swimmer’s ear from happening, such as:

● Decrease your water exposure and use earplugs when bathing or swimming
● Don’t insert any instruments or scratch your ears
● Clean your ears regularly and keep them free from earwax
● Use eardrop solutions to help prevent bacterial infections and remove earwax
● Dry your ear canal properly after bathing or swimming. You can use a hairdryer on low setting when doing so

Wrapping It Up
Swimmer’s ear is uncomfortable, but can be treated properly with the right knowledge and tips. Furthermore, you can prevent it from happening to you and your loved ones as you swim in pools or beaches.

Hopefully, this article on swimmer’s ear informed you of this type of infection and how to treat and prevent it. Prepare for the summer ahead and make sure that you take necessary safety precautions to prevent swimmer’s ear now!

Do you have questions or want to share your knowledge and personal experiences with a swimmer’s ear? Share it in the comments section below, all of your thoughts are much appreciated.

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