What is swimmer's ear?
How does swimmer's ear develop?
It is a bacterial infection that affects the outer ear canal, which is also known as otitis externa. This occurs when water remains in the ear canal. That then creates the moist conditions necessary for bacteria to grow. This infection can occur in both acute and chronic forms. The most common symptoms include swelling in the ear canal, pain, continual drainage and a feeling of fullness in one's ear.
How is swimmer's ear prevented and treated?
The ear canal has natural defenses that protect against the development of bacteria. But, there are some risk factors that could increase the likelihood of contracting swimmer's ear. First, allowing water from swimming to linger in the ear canal can directly affect the formation of swimmer's ear. Also, swimming in water with elevated bacteria levels (lakes, non-chlorinated pools)can affect things. As can cuts or lesions in the ear canal as a result of cotton swabs or other objects, or with individuals who have more narrow ear canals that can easily trap water.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has swimmer's ear, you should consult a doctor even if the symptoms are mild to stop the infection before it accelerates. In most cases, treatment involves first cleaning out the ear canal to remove any traces of bacteria and excess moisture.
This is usually followed by an antibiotic or antifungal ear drop regimen to treat the infection directly. The doctor may also recommend a steroid to limit inflammation. In most cases, swimmer's ear will clear up with appropriate treatment in 1-2 weeks. With some advanced preparation at the beach or pool this summer, you can stop it before it has a chance to develop.
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