What it is: Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. It’s often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming, creating a moist environment that aids bacterial growth. Putting fingers, cotton swabs or other objects in your ears also can lead to swimmer’s ear by damaging the thin layer of skin lining your ear canal.
- Itching in your ear canal
- Slight redness inside your ear
- Mild discomfort that’s made worse by pulling on your outer ear (pinna, or auricle) or pushing on the little “bump” (tragus) in front of your ear
- Some drainage of clear, odourless fluid
- Discharge of pus
- Feeling of fullness inside your ear and partial blockage of your ear canal by swelling, fluid and debris
- Decreased or muffled hearing
- Severe pain that may radiate to your face, neck or side of your head
- Swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck
How it is treated: A doctor will use a scope to view inside your ear and determine the cause of the symptoms. Generally you will be prescribed medicated ear drops, pain medication and in severe cases antibiotics. Anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed to reduce swelling and to allow the debris to flow out the ear. You will administer the eardrops whilst lying with the infected ear upright to the sky. This allows the drops to flow the length of the ear canal. Once that has happened, try sleeping on your side with the infected ear down. This allows it to drain. You may not swim, scuba dive or fly as the water and pressure may exacerbate the situation. The infection should clear up in 3-5 days.
Rehabilitation: In future ensure you drain your ears of fluid each time you swim or plug up your ears to prevent it from happening again. Keep your ears clean and do not use a cleaning device too deeply.