The warmer temperatures of summer allow people to enjoy more time near and in water. A common ailment in warmer climates and during summer months is swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal caused by bacteria growing when water becomes trapped in the ear canal.
Over 2 million people in the United States seek medical attention for swimmer’s ear annually. Symptoms occur within a few days of swimming and may include redness and swelling of the ear as well as itching. Those infected may feel pain when the ear is touched and pus may drain from the area. Swimmer’s ear is most likely to occur in children and is treated with antibiotic ear drops.
Public pools and recreational water areas are a breeding ground for germs. Water trapped in ear canals becomes an ideal environment for bacteria to grow and cause infection.
If ear pain is very intense or if you are becoming ill, seek medical attention. Symptoms might include severe headache, fever of 101 degrees or higher or confusion. People with impaired immune systems, diabetes and those on steroids have a higher risk of complications.
Keeping ears dry is crucial in avoiding swimmer’s ear. People who spend a great deal of time in water should wear a swim cap or ear plugs. After swimming, use a towel to dry ears. Tilt the head to each side to aid water in exiting the ear canals. It may be helpful to gently tug on earlobes to aid water in draining. The use of cotton swabs is not recommended.