Living in Hawaii, most of us find the ocean to be some sort of therapy or exercise. Some of us spear fish for tonight’s dinner, others do a couple laps at Kaimana beach, some like to explore by boat, some of us are thrill seekers and go open water shark diving, and others just like to causally float in the blue water on a warm beach day. Whatever your preference here are some things to know to protect your ears from the dreaded Swimmers Ear.
What is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear, or Otitis Externa, is an inflammation of the skin of the ear canal. This is usually due to infection. Most commonly the infection is due to bacterial organisms, but occasionally may be due to a fungus (yeast) infection.
Who gets Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear occurs more often in swimmers due to water frequently getting into the ear canal from swimming. This leads to a moist environment that can help germs grow. It is also more common in warm humid environments due to increased moisture so anyone can end up with a swimmer’s ear. In addition, anything that irritates the ear (Q-tips) may expose the raw skin and start an infection.
What are the symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear?
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include a blocked or plugged sensation to the ear, itching, discharge, decreased hearing, and ear pain. It may be painful to touch the ear itself especially near the ear canal opening or there may be ear pain with jaw movement (ie chewing).
What is diagnosis and treatment?
Diagnosis is usually made by a medical provider looking into the ear and visualizing a red and swollen ear canal. Sometimes discharge is present. Treatment begins with ear drops which can be prescribed at Island Urgent Care. Occasionally oral antibiotics may also be indicated. You may use tylenol or ibuprofen for pain, and a warm compress held to the ear may provide relief for the discomfort.
How do I use the ear drops?
Lie with the affected ear upwards and instill drops into affected ear canal. Stay in this position for 5-10 mins to help the ear drops settle into the canal. You should also avoid getting any water into the ear canal (avoid swimming/water related activities & wear shower cap with bathing ) as the water will wash away the drops and may prolong recovery. Once your symptoms are resolved and course of medications are completed then you may return to usual activities.