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What is Swimmers Ear?

A condition that can arise in those who spend a lot of time in the water is swimmer’s ear. Its medical name is otitis externa. The ear canal becomes infected by bacteria and fungi that are present in the water.

When water is allowed to settle in the outer ear, it can break down the skin here over time. Cracks in the skin allow bacteria or fungi to enter and grow. Untreated, it could affect the eardrum and middle ear where the bones of sound conduction are found.

But, you don’t have to be a swimmer to get swimmer’s ear. Bacteria are introduced through breaks in the skin. This can also be caused by scratching the ear canal, using Q-tips and rubbing vigorously or using other objects in the ear. However, children who spend lots of time in the water are still the best candidates.

Signs of Swimmer’s Ear

So, how will you know that you or someone else in your family has the condition? Become suspicious when children begin to pull on their ears. Often this is done because the ears are irritated, painful or itchy. This is the first sign.

Examine the ears. Are there signs of redness or scabs from previous scratches to the skin? Irritation can cause swelling in the ear canal. This swelling can block the transmission of sound.

Kids often complain that they feel that there is something in their ear when there is not. They may feel pain when they chew. If your child is eating less, it could be because of this pain.

Pus is also not uncommon in the ear. It may begin clear and turn cloudy as the condition worsens. Don’t worry about catching it. Swimmer’s ear is not contagious.

Treatment for Swimmer’s Ear

At the first sign of pain, see a doctor. They can examine the ears and let you know exactly what is going on. Treatment involves clearing up the infection with antibiotic drops.

If there is swelling, a steroid drop may also be used to reduce it so that the antibiotic can do its job. The doctor may take a culture of the pus coming from the ear for culture just to confirm the source of the infection. Oral antibiotics may be needed for severe cases.

At home, warm washcloths keep the ear canal clean. Make sure that any moisture is removed. Give pain relievers to stop any discomfort while the medication is working.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal that can affect hearing. Get help from your doctor at the first sign of symptoms.

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