Words with Webb: Swimmer's Ear

Words with Webb: Swimmer's Ear

by -

Swimmer’s ear is a type of ear infection that causes inflammation to the ear canal. It is also called otitis externa, meaning outer ear infection, and believe it or not it does differ from a typical ear infection.

Swimmer’s ear is caused by bacteria invading the skin of the ear canal. Most often it’s caused by water that remains in the canal which leads to a warm, moist environment aiding in bacterial growth. Hence the term swimmer’s ear! It can also be caused by injury to the ear canal due to fingers, cotton swabs/Q-tips, or other objects. Chlorine from pools and peroxide (often used to clean our ears) can play a role, too. These irritants lead to drying or cracking of the skin and can cause disruption which leaves it susceptible to infection.

Treatment is pretty easy; usually an antibacterial drop taken for a few days clears it right up! Over the counter medications like Tylenol and Motrin will help with pain.

There are several preventative measures you can take to prevent swimmer’s ear. The best thing you can do is keep the outer ear and canal dry, especially after swimming, bathing or showering. You can also dry the ear with a towel or washcloth, but don’t use a Q-tip in your ear. Also wearing ear plugs while swimming and not swimming in areas that have signs of high bacteria is encouraged.

If you have a topic you’d like Seth to cover, please email StLukesCR@unitypoint.org