How to get rid of swimmer's ear

If you’re finding yourself experiencing discomfort, swelling or itching in your ear canal, it may be worth checking if you’ve been swimming recently. If so, you may have a case of swimmer’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the ear canal, which can be brought on by swimming, but also by anything that disrupts the thin layer of skin lining your ear canal – this can range from hair products making their way inside your ear canal, scratching and even cotton buds.

However, the most common cause of infection is water remaining in the ear canal, creating a moist environment for bacteria to grow.

The symptoms can range from itching to swelling to muffled hearing. In some extremely rare cases, swimmer’s ear can be a reason for why people lose their hearing or experience fever and pain as symptoms.

If you do suspect you may have a case of swimmer’s ear, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

Symptoms

Some symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:

  • Itching
  • Redness in your ear
  • Muffled hearing
  • Some clear, odourless fluid leaking out of your ear
  • In some instances, pain around the ear and jaw
  • Fever

How to get rid of swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear treatment can be treated by your doctor, although in some rare occasions, the condition may become serious.

Your doctor will begin by examining your ear canal with a lighted instrument. They’re also likely to check your eardrum to see if it is torn or damaged.

If your eardrum is blocked, your doctor may clear use a suction device to suck out any debris. A small scooping device may also be used for this purpose.

Treatment for infection

Usually, getting rid of swimmer’s ear is straightforward once your doctor has identified the site of the infection and cleaned the debris from the outer ear canal.

Usually ear drops are prescribed. They contain a combination of ingredients to help tackle bacterial infection such as:

  • Acidic solution – to restore your ear to its normal environment
  • Antibiotics – to tackle bacteria
  • Antifungals – to tackle fungus
  • Steroids – to help reduce inflammation

In some cases, if your ear is quite severely blocked, your doctor may insert a wick made of cotton to drain the ear. The wick pulls the medication into the swollen ear canal because ear drops cannot penetrate the swollen skin.

If your doctor finds that your eardrum is torn, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist. This is because the infection will have likely transferred to your middle ear, requiring more specialist-based treatment.

In some rare circumstances, your infection might not respond to ear drops. In this case, your doctor may take a sample of debris from your ear canal and send it to a lab for analysis.

Treatment for pain and discomfort

In most cases, over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin, which will help reduce any swelling, will be enough to combat any pain. If your pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe pain medication.

Things to do while healing

  • Don't take any flights while suffering from swimmer’s ear. The changes in air pressure may cause discomfort
  • Keep your ear dry while showering. Cover the infected ear canal with gauze or a cotton ball
  • Do not insert earplugs into the ear, especially if fluid is draining out of the canal
  • Avoid swimming

Swimmer's ear is a treatable condition, and in most cases isn't severe. The best course of action is to speak to a qualified medical professional who can advise on the best treatment.

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