What You Need to Know About Swimmers Ear

If you or your family members love to swim in the summertime, take a minute to learn some important facts about otitis externa, or Swimmer’s Ear – a painful and preventable ailment we see a whole lot of at Plymouth ENT during South Shore summers!

WHAT is Swimmer’s Ear, and what are its symptoms?

Swimmer’s Ear is an infection of the outer ear canal that is most often caused by water being trapped in the ear, causing the spread of bacteria or fungal organisms. Its symptoms include a full or blocked sensation in the ear; pain that can radiate to the neck, face, or side of the head; ear drainage; fever; redness or swelling around the ear, and swollen area lymph nodes.

WHO gets it, and how? 

People of all ages can get Swimmer’s Ear, most commonly because of water trapped in the ear canal. But other contributing factors include contact with excessive bacteria in hot tubs; excessive cleaning of the ear canal (with Q Tips, for example); a cut in the skin of the ear canal; or other skin conditions affecting the ear canal, like eczema.

HOW can you prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

A dry ear is unlikely to become infected; so towel off carefully after swimming, and tip each ear to the side gently, parallel to the ground, to allow water to escape the ear canal. Gently pulling each ear lobe will help. If you still feel water in your ears, use a hair dryer at its lowest setting, several inches from your ear, for 2-3 minutes.

Do not put ANY objects in your ear canal, including cotton swabs, and don’t try to remove earwax; it’s essential to prevent infection. If you suspect excessive earwax, consult your physician for assistance.

Ask your pool or hot tub management team if disinfectant and pH levels are checked at least twice a day, as they’re less likely to spread germs. You can also check these levels yourself – click here to find out how.

Here’s a great video with more information on how to enjoy swimming while keeping your ears infection-free!