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.
Some symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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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