Swimmer's Ear: What It Is and How To Prevent It

May 7th 2016

It is impossible to avoid water contact to your ears, but it can help to avoid swimming in environments with known bacteria or low chlorine counts to avoid infection. Stray from inserting objects into your ears to keep your eardrum healthy and intact.

The Basics

Swimmer's ear is an infection that occurs within the outer ear canal when water remains in the ear. Excess water dormant in the ear canal causes bacterial growth that ultimately results in an infection.

Causes

People who swim regularly are prone to swimmer's ear because they are underwater for long periods of time and water builds up in the ear canal. You can also acquire the infection when using cotton swabs or foreign objects to clean the ears. Inserting objects into the ear can cause damage to the lining of the ear canal and trap water that creates a moist environment ideal for bacteria.

Symptoms

Mild symptoms of swimmer's ear include redness inside the ear, itching within the ear canal and drainage of odorless, clear fluid. You may also experience pain and discomfort when pulling on the outer ear. Most cases of swimmer's ear can be treated with ear drops prescribed by a physician. Your doctor may also recommend flushing the ears with water to help remove excess water trapped in the ear canal.

Prevention

Preventative methods help to reduce your risks of acquiring an ear infection. Dry your ears completely after bathing or swimming to remove excess moisture, and tip your head to the side to drain water from the ear. You can also use ear drops before and after swimming to prevent bacteria from growing inside the ear canal.

Conclusion

Swimmer's ear can cause extreme discomfort and impact your hearing during an infection. The condition commonly affects swimmers but can also affect you when you bathe, shower or clean your ears. Learn more about the condition and how to prevent ear pain.

Sources

MayoClinic.org "Swimmer's ear: Prevention" http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/swimmers-ear/basics/prevention/con-20014723
ENTNet.org "Swimmer's ear" http://www.entnet.org/content/swimmers-ear
KidsHealth.org "Swimmer's ear" http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/aches/swimmers_ear.html

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