What Is Otitis External? Otitis external also called swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection of the outer ear canal. It’s common in children and people of all ages who spend a good deal of time swimming. Getting water in your ear may make it difficult to hear and your ear may also feel blocked. Most times, the water will clear out on its own without having to do anything.
But if the water does not dissipate on its own and you don’t treat it, you could develop swimmer’s ear, which can cause swelling, irritation, and discomfort. Severe cases may lead to hearing loss or an infection spreading to the surrounding skin or other parts of the body, but this rarely happens.
Ear pain is the most common sign of the condition. Other symptoms include itchiness and discharge from the ear. Often, the ear will look swollen or red. In severe cases, it can even temporarily affect your ability to hear.
The infection is caused by bacteria that find a moist home in the outer ear canal. The best way to prevent it is to keep your ears dry. Many people find it useful to wear a bathing cap or earplugs while swimming. Others prefer to dry their ears after they get out of the water. They can do so using a towel or by tilting their head to let the water run out of their ears.
A doctor can give you the best advice for preventing the condition. They may also prescribe antibiotics to fight an active infection.
Luckily, most cases of swimmer’s ear clear up after about a week of treatment. Still, it’s not an experience anyone wants to have more than once. If you swim often, take steps to protect yourself from the swimmer’s ear. Besides keeping your ears dry, it’s important to only swim in clean water.
What Do Doctors Do to Get Rid of Swimmer’s Ear? After your doctor’s office examines and diagnoses your swimmer’s ear, they will likely prescribe antibiotic ear drops along with anti-fungal ear drops if the infection is determined to be fungus-related. Other common remedies include vinegar ear drops to help restore the bacterial balance in the ear and corticosteroids to help reduce swelling.
If you are in pain, your doctor may also recommend pain medications to ease your discomfort. While you’re still healing, you may be told to avoid flying, swimming, or doing anything that may lead to more water entering your ear.
Content for this question contributed by Annmarie Colucci, resident of Roselle, Union County, New Jersey, USA