Summer is here, which means high temperatures and cooling off by the pool! This is a good time to be aware of swimmer’s ear. If you and your family spend a lot of time by the pool cooling off, you could be risking the health of your ears, or suddenly find yourself in a lot of pain. Here are a few tips on how to prevent swimmer’s ear, and enjoy the summer without stressing about your ears.
What is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s Ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection in the ear canal, usually caused by water that gets trapped in your ear. When water stays in the ear canal, it softens the skin, removes earwax, and opens the door for infection and bacteria growth. It’s common after a Saturday at the pool, and this trapped water can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Excessive sweat or a humid climate can also cause swimmer’s ear, since the bacteria will have a warm, wet environment in which to grow. Swimmer’s ear causes pain, itchiness, and difficulty hearing, and you may notice pus or fluid leaking from the ear.
Preventing Swimmer’s Ear
If you want to avoid a painful infection this summer, there are a few things you can do to prevent swimmer’s ear. First, keep your ears dry. If you’ve had an ear infection before, or know that you’re likely to get water stuck in your ears, you should consider wearing swimmer’s earplugs. This will keep the water out of your ear canals while you’re swimming, and you won’t risk having water trapped in your ears. Stopping water from getting in your ears in the first place is a sure way of preventing swimmer’s ear. A bath cap could also help in keeping your ears safe and dry.
Another way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to avoid swimming in places with a lot of bacteria. Lakes, ponds, and rivers can be great fun, but be sure you find out about the water quality before you jump in. In areas with high levels of bacteria you’ll find signs warning you if it’s unsafe to swim. When it comes to your backyard pool, make sure you keep the water clean, and never swim in dirty water. This increases your chances of developing a painful ear infection.
Tips for After Swimming
When you’re out of the pool, take the time to thoroughly dry your ears. Use a dry, clean towel to remove water from around the ear and in the outer ear. Make sure there’s no water trapped in your ear canal by tilting your head, gently pulling on your earlobe, and letting any water drain from your ears. Be sure to repeat this for both ears.
If you think your ears aren’t getting dry, you can get over the counter eardrops to soak up any leftover water. It’s not recommended to use eardrops if you are experiencing any pain in your ears, or if you’ve recently had ear surgery.
Look After Your Ears
Swimmer’s ear isn’t always caused by water. You can also get an ear infection from other damage to the ear canal, or any break in the skin where bacteria can begin to grow. Along with keeping your ears dry, never put anything into your ears! Avoid using cotton swabs or Q-tips, or any other objects like pins, pens, tissues, or even your finger. These could scratch the ear canal, or even leave a small piece of cotton in the ears, increasing your chances of an infection.
Along with protecting your ears, a great way to fight infection is to leave your ear wax alone, and resist the urge to overclean your ears. While ear wax might seem sticky and gross, it actually serves a vital purpose in protecting your ears from dirt, dust, debris, and moisture. The ear wax will trap these foreign particles, and stop them from reaching your middle ear or ear drum. The wax then dries out, and slowly works its way out of the ear canal, eventually falling out or getting washed away in the shower.
My Hearing Centers
If you’re concerned about your hearing health, think you might have hearing loss, or want to check on the health of your ears, visit us at My Hearing Centers for a comprehensive hearing test.