Swimmers’ ear is a form of otitis externa, which is an inflammation or infection of the canal between the eardrum and the external opening of the ear.
Swimmers’ ear is associated with:
Itching and pain (pain may be worse when the head is moved, pressure is applied, or by tugging on the earlobe)
Foul-smelling or watery discharge from the ear
Hearing loss (if the ear becomes swollen and full of debris)
Ringing in the ear
Boils may also develop in the area
This is a very common problem that afflicts the outer ear. It is most often due to a bacterial infection but can also be due to a fungal infection or dermatitis. It can often occur in swimmers but it can also affect non-swimmers.
Too much moisture inside the ear can cause this complaint. This can occur through normal showering or swimming. Excessive amounts of wax can also cause an obstruction, allowing water to build up in the ear canal.
The moisture in the ear can make it quite itchy. If the skin tears or breaks, which can happen easily if the air canal is probed, bacteria can get in and cause infection.
The use of hearing aids or earplugs increases the risk.
Acute ear infections require professional treatment, which may include taking:
Horseradish, garlic and vitamin C to help relieve symptoms of mild respiratory tract infections.
Echinacea – to help reduce the symptoms of infections of the upper respiratory tract
This condition is not usually serious and it may clear up on its own; however if it does not improve in a day or two, consult your healthcare professional.
Never put anything narrower than your finger into your ear.
Don’t swim in polluted water, and at the first sign of any ear discomfort after swimming, consult your healthcare professional.
Make sure your ear canal is drained of water after swimming or showering.
Make sure you keep the infected ear dry – wear a shower cap. If swimming, keep your head above water until symptoms have cleared.
To relieve pain, place a warm heating pad or compress on the infected ear.
Swimmers’ ear can be prevented by using special ear-drops made of alcohol or weak acetic acid to dry and disinfect the ear canal, immediately after swimming. These help to remove water and alter the pH of the canal.
Don’t clean your ears too thoroughly, the ear needs some wax for protection
Serious consequences can arise from untreated ear infections. Always consult your healthcare professional if you or your child displays symptoms of infection or develop hearing problems.
It is also important to consult your healthcare professional if you experience dizziness or ringing in the ears, or severe pain.