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How to treat swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the external ear canal. The infection is triggered by water that remains inside the ear after swimming and creates a moist environment suitable for bacterial growth.

Putting fingers and cotton swabs or other objects inside the ears can result to swimmer’s ear. It damages the skin that lines the ear canal.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear

Swimmer's ear

As the infection progresses, the itching and pain becomes severe, intense redness of the affected area, discharge of pus, feeling of fullness in the ear and partial blockage of the ear canal due to swelling, fluid and debris and difficulty in hearing sounds.

  • Slight redness inside the ear
  • Itching in the ear canal
  • As the infection progresses, the itching and pain becomes severe, intense redness of the affected area, discharge of pus, feeling of fullness in the ear and partial blockage of the ear canal due to swelling, fluid and debris and difficulty in hearing sounds.
  • Symptoms becomes severe when it spreads to the face, neck or side area of the head, ear canal is completely blocked, redness or swelling of the outer ear, fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Causes

  • Excess moisture in the ear or water that remains inside the ear after swimming creates a good environment for the growth of bacteria.
  • Scratches or abrasions caused on the ear canal by using cotton swabs, hair pins and other objects when cleaning the ears. Scratching the inside of the ear using a finger, wearing headphones or hearing aids can create small cuts in the skin that increases the risk for bacterial growth.
  • Allergies and skin conditions that are triggered by hair products or jewelries.

Treatment

  • Minimize swimming where the head is submerged in water. While taking a bath, cover the ears loosely with cotton balls to prevent water from getting inside the ears.
  • Avoid drying the ears using cotton or other objects. Cotton increases the risk of infection, especially when the ears are already infected.
  • Dry the ears properly using a soft towel or cloth and tilt the head to the side to drain the water out of the ear canal. Another alternative is using a blow dryer to dry out the ear. Set the blower in the lowest setting and keep it at least a foot distance from the ear.
  • When taking a bath, coat 2 cotton balls with petroleum jelly and place each cotton ball in both ears to prevent water from getting inside the ear canal.
  • Apply a warm compress on the affected area to increase the blood flow and lessen the pain. Soak a facecloth in hot water and wring out excess water and then place it over the affected ear for at least 2 minutes and tilt the head to promote drainage of fluid. Wait for at least 10 minutes and then repeat the process again.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lessen the pain and discomfort caused by swimmer’s ear.

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