Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer’s Ear (otitis externa) is a commonly occurring infection of the outer ear — the part of the ear canal between the outside of the ear and the eardrum. It should not be confused with middle ear infection (otitis media), which occurs behind the eardrum.

Swimmer’s ear is usually caused by the persistence of contaminated water in the ear, usually after swimming. However, any irritation of the skin of the ear canal may allow contaminants such as bacteria or fungi to invade.

Symptoms of an outer ear infection can include:

  • Pain in the ear upon touch, pressure, or during chewing
  • Itchiness in the ear
  • Swelling or redness in and around the ear
  • Drainage of pus from the ear
  • Sometimes a minor, temporary loss of hearing

Swimmer’s ear can be prevented by using an over-the-counter solution of acetic acid or alcohol, dripped in the ears after swimming.

Also, keeping ears as dry as possible using a towel or hair dryer (on low setting), draining ears well by tipping head to each side and pulling on the earlobe in different directions.

If an infection is suspected, contact a healthcare provider. He/she may prescribe antibiotics and sometimes steroids to reduce swelling. Over-the-counter pain relievers may also be used.

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