Summer is approaching and the time to splash around in your backyard pool or the blue waters of the Gold Coast is almost here. But as enjoyable as swimming can be, it can also cause some health risks to your family, and one of them is contracting “swimmer’s ear”. It’s an inflammation or infection of the ear canal, which can spread through your inner ear and skull if left untreated.
Don’t worry, though. The first step to avoiding swimmer’s ear is understanding what it is and what causes the condition.
What causes swimmer’s ear?
Medically known as otitis externa, swimmer’s ear happens most often during summer when people swim frequently, and when humidity is high. It is commonly caused by water that stays inside the ear canal. Because this part of the ear is warm and dark, the water that lingers becomes an ideal environment for fungi and bacteria, which will multiply and infect the ear canal.
The loss of ear wax also contributes to getting a swimmer’s ear. Ear wax is the organ’s natural protectant. But due to water that enters and leaves the ear when swimming, the ear wax gets washed away, leaving the ear unprotected.
If you have an existing ear injury or skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, then you are also likely to get a swimmer’s ear, especially if you happen to swim in a polluted body of water.
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear
You’ll know that you’ve been infected with otitis externa after swimming if you feel pain every time the ear is pressed or bumped. The pain will worsen over time. Other symptoms of swimmer’s ear include the following:
- Itchiness inside the ear
- Temporary loss of hearing
- Red and swollen outer ear
- Smelly yellow or green liquid coming out of the ear
- Sudden fever
Preventing swimmer’s ear
It’s best to always be proactive and not wait for these symptoms to manifest. You can avoid swimmer’s ear by cleaning and drying your ears every time you are done swimming, even when using bathing caps or earplugs. Do not use cotton swabs or tissue because they’ll scratch the inside of your ear and cause more damage. Instead, use a hairdryer to dry your ears.
If you feel that water is trapped inside the ear, you can apply a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution using a dropper to remove any solid ear wax. Drain the solution by tipping your head to the side and dry your ear using a hairdryer.
Swimmer’s ear treatment
If you experience any of the symptoms of a swimmer’s ear, make sure to clean your ears right away. You can take over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen to relieve the pain and decongestants like Benadryl to relieve other symptoms. A hot compress can also help ease the pain and swelling.
Mild cases of otitis externa may be treated with non-prescription ear drops. Home-made ear drops like the mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar are also a good alternative treatment. However, ears with discharge are not advisable to be applied with ear drops.
When to seek medical advice
Most cases of swimmer’s ear will go away on its own after a few days. Nevertheless, it’s still best to see a doctor for medical advice, however mild or strong the case of your swimmer’s ear maybe. An ear specialist (ENT, Otolaryngologist, or Otologist) will be able to clean your ear safely, prescribe the right oral antibiotics and ear drops, and give the best advice for recovery.
Seeking medical advice from a doctor will also prevent further complications like narrowing of the ear canal, facial infection, and malignant otitis externa (skull infection).
Medications for Swimmer’s Ear at Greg Keily Chemist
Now that you know how to avoid swimmer’s ear this summer, you can enjoy the Gold Coast beaches and swimming the entire season without worrying. But if you experience any symptoms after enjoying the beautiful waters in Queensland, then you can visit our store at 98 Marine Parade, Southport or call us at 07 5555 7877 to know more about the medical supplies you need to treat swimmer’s ear.
Greg Keily Chemist has been serving the Southport community for four decades by providing the best over the counter and prescription medicines. Our qualified and experienced pharmacists are always available for all your medication needs.