As the weather gets hotter we find ourselves relaxing by the pool, hanging out in the ocean, or diving into the nearest lake. However, time spent in the water can lead to an achy ear. Swimmer’s ear not only can affect competitive swimmers, but can cause problems for anyone. Follow these helpful tips on preventing and treating swimmer’s ear so you can spend more time poolside, instead of at the doctor’s office.
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What Causes Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmers ear, also known as otitis externa, occurs when the canal that joins your eardrum to the external ear becomes inflamed. This inflammation is caused by moisture, such as water and bacteria, getting trapped in the ear canal.
But, don’t be fooled by the term swimmer’s ear – swimming isn’t the only way your ear can become inflamed. Anyone who is outside in the wind and rain can develop this painful condition as well.
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Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
Some common symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:
- Ear pain
- Plugged feeling in your ears
- Ear pain while chewing or if you tug on your earlobes
Swimmer’s Ear Treatment
Swimmer’s ear is often treated with antibiotics, such as pills or ear drops. If you can’t make it to the doctor, you can always try a homemade remedy.
Mix a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half vinegar. When rubbing alcohol combines with the water in your ear it evaporates and removes the water, while vinegar prevents bacteria growth. Apply a couple of drops of solution in each ear and let it drain out.
Consult your doctor about drops if you have ear tubes, damaged ear drums, outer ear infections, or ear drainage.
Preventing Swimmer’s Ear
Try taking these tips into consideration when you plan on swimming or being around water that has not been treated.
- Don’t swim in lakes or oceans on days where you see signs alerting swimmers of high bacteria counts.
- After swimming, keep your ears clean and dry. If using a blow dryer to dry ears, make sure the dryer is on the lowest setting and hold it a foot away from your ear.
- Use a bath cap, ear plugs, or a custom-fitted swim cap when swimming.
- Pool test strips can be used to check for pH levels. The ideal range for pH in swimming pool water is 7.2 – 7.8.
Contact your doctor if your ears are itchy, flaky, swollen, painful, or if you have drainage from your ears. Also, consult your doctor about swimming if you have recently had an ear infection or ear surgery.
About Ear Nose and Throat
Ear, Nose, and Throat Services at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside ranks among the best nationally on U.S. News & World Report’s listings. Our team includes board-certified physicians and highly skilled speech-language pathologists and audiologists. We treat a variety of ear, nose, and throat conditions in both children and adults and provide both surgical and non-surgical options. Our doctors also take part in research and clinical trials. We have locations throughout western Pennsylvania for patient convenience.