The Why Behind Swimmer’s Ear

Still splashing around in your pool? That’s great, but be careful not to do overdo it. One of the most common risks in particular is swimmer’s ear, something that seems to happen to everyone, but what is it, exactly?

Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, the part of your ear that runs from your eardrum to the outer ear canal. When water collects in your ear and stays stagnant, bacteria can easily grow. According to Mayo Clinic, Swimmer’s Ear can also be caused by putting swabs and your finger in your ear, since it can cause damage to the sensitive skin in your ear. However, it most commonly happens because of swimming too long and not drying your ears thoroughly.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include: pain and discomfort, fluid drainage, itchiness, and tender to the touch. If left unchecked, these symptoms can progress to fever, severe pain, swollen lymph nodes, and complete blockage of the ear canal. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s not very fun either. If you notice any early symptoms, particularly ear drainage, make an appointment or go into a clinic right away.

While the treatment for swimmer’s ear varies, a typical treatment starts with checking the status of the infection, and cleaning the ear as thoroughly as possible to allow for easier access to the medicine. Usually, ear drops are given and used at home, but treatments can also include anti-fungal medication or anti-biotics, depending on the severity of the infection. When using ear drops at home, it’s important to allow the medicine time to work. It may feel uncomfortable, but the drops are fighting back that infection.

Prevention techniques include using a swim cap or ear plugs while you swim, so take a cue from the local swim team! It’s also a good idea to shower after you swim, and taking care with your ears to ensure they dry properly afterwards. Never use anything like a swab to dry your ears, as that can damage your inner ear. Instead, you can use the same towel you use on your hair, and wipe gently.