News | Published July 31, 2014 | Written by Dawn Sanzotti, PA-C, MHS, ear, nose & throat/audiology, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Waterlogged— swimmer’s ear can be painful, irritating

Whether you’re in the water for hours every day or simply take a dip during summer scorchers, you may find yourself with swimmer's ear.

Swimmer’s ear, an infection called otitis externa, occurs when water remains in the outer ear canal, creating a moist environment that supports bacterial growth. The result can be painful and irritating.

Typically the symptoms begin as mild, but they can easily progress if the infection is not treated. At the onset, you may notice itching in the ear, a slight redness, drainage of fluid, and increasing pain. Symptoms of advanced swimmer's ear include decreased or muffled hearing, pain that radiates to the face and neck, complete blockage of the ear canal, swelling, fever, and intense pain.

Interestingly, when the climate becomes excessively warm and humid, bacteria may still become trapped inside the ear canal and lead to infection, even if you have not been swimming.

To prevent swimmer’s ear, you should keep your ears clean and dry. Also try wearing a swim cap or earplugs while swimming, and make sure to dry your ears thoroughly with a towel or hair dryer after you’ve been in the water.

Should you find yourself with the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, talk with your doctor. Using prescription antibiotic eardrops or other medications can usually reduce inflammation and promote healing. During treatment, make sure to keep your ears clean and dry to avoid further discomfort.

To learn more about the ear, nose & throat/audiology services available through Mount Nittany Physician Group, visit mountnittany.org/physician-group.

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