What is Swimmer’s Ear? banner

By westgate June 3, 2024

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

As summer heats up and pool days round the corner, you should be aware of the potential risks of swimmer’s ear, a common yet painful condition that affects swimmers of all ages.

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is caused by water that becomes trapped in the ear canal after swimming (or bathing). When water remains in the ear, the extra moisture softens the skin lining the ear canal, making it more susceptible to bacterial infection or fungal growth. Activities that introduce bacteria or irritants into the ear, such as using unclean swimming pools, wearing earplugs, hearing aids or inserting foreign objects into the ear, can increase your risk.

What are the symptoms of swimmer’s ear?

The symptoms of swimmer’s ear can vary in severity but often include ear pain which may worsen when the earlobe or tragus are touched. The ear canal may feel itchy or irritated and the outer ear may redden or swell. Clear, pus-like fluid draining from the ear is a telltale sign that you need to see a doctor, as well as muffled or temporary loss of hearing.

How is swimmer’s ear treated?

Your first step should be to visit your doctor. They can prescribe antibiotic or antifungal ear drops to clear the infection and reduce inflammation. Use the drops as directed and continue treatment for the full course, even if symptoms improve. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help treat ear pain and discomfort. Avoid inserting cotton swabs or other objects into the ear, as this can worsen symptoms. While undergoing treatment for swimmer’s ear, keep the affected ear dry to prevent further irritation and infection. Wear a shower cap while bathing and don’t go swimming; but don’t worry, you’ll be back to the pool in a week or two.

Can I prevent swimmer’s ear?

There are preventative measures you can take to ward off an infection in your ear from water exposure. After swimming or bathing, tilt your head to each side and gently pull on the earlobe to help water drain from the ear canal. Use a towel to dry the outer ear thoroughly. When swimming, try to keep your head above water.

You can take proactive steps to protect your ears and enjoy swimming safely all summer long. But if you experience persistent or severe ear pain, drainage or hearing loss, be sure to call Westgate Family Physicians at (864) 574-0070 for evaluation and treatment. Don’t let swimmer’s ear dampen your summer fun; dive in with confidence and keep your ears happy and healthy!