What causes Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear structures, particularly the ear canal.  It typically occurs in swimmers, since the cause of the infection is water trapped in the ear canal, however bathing or showering may also cause this common infection.  When water is trapped in the ear canal, bacteria that normally inhabit the skin and ear canal multiply, causing infection and irritation of the ear canal.  If the infection progresses it may involve the outer ear.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear:

The most common symptoms of swimmer’s ear are mild to moderate pain that is aggravated by tugging on the outer ear and may complain of an itchy ear.  Other symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Sensation that the ear is blocked or full
  • Drainage
  • Fever
  • Decreased hearing
  • Intense pain that may radiate to the neck, face, or side of the head
  • The outer ear may appear to be pushed forward or away from the skull
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Treatment for Moderate/Severe Swimmer’s Ear:

  1. Mix equal proportions of hydrogen peroxide (this can be purchased without a prescription) and water into a 1:1 solution. Use 60ml of this solution and flush the outer ear, 1-2 times a day for 1 week with an ear cleaning device (we will give this to you at the clinic).
  2. After flushing out the ear, place 5 drops of an antibiotic drop (such as Otic Floxin or Ciprodex), 1-2 times a day for 1 week. After putting the drops in the ear, plug the outer ear canal with a piece of cotton or finger for 5 minutes.  To help place the medication into the affected area, you may need to use a wick (we will explain this in the office).
  3. For prevention, after swimming, you can flush the ears out as needed (usually 1 time will suffice). You can either use the above solution or alcohol and vinegar mixed 1:1 or an over-the-counter swimmer’s ear solution.
  4. If the ear is not improving or after 3 days there is still pain when you push on the outer ear, please call us or return to the clinic.
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