Don’t Let Swimmer’s Ear Keep You Out of the Pool

May 24, 2013

Fort Scott, KS – As families turn to pools and lakes to find relief from the hot days, swimmer’s ear becomes a common ailment of the season.

People are susceptible to swimmer’s ear when they spend a lot of time swimming, especially in water with high levels of bacteria. Children are more vulnerable because they have a narrow ear canal. People who overproduce earwax are also more vulnerable to swimmer’s ear. Other risk factors include irritants such as aggressive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs or other objects, using a swimming cap that traps moisture or using hair sprays that get into the ear.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear can be very mild. If ignored, the infection can spread and the symptoms can then go from mild to uncomfortable to painful. Symptoms include:

  • Itching in the ear canal
  • Redness inside the ear
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Feeling of fullness inside the ear
  • Muffled hearing
  • Increasing pain, especially when wiggling the earlobe

“If the pain is mild, it’s good to see a physician to keep the infection from spreading,” said Michelle Bruner, Mercy Clinic director. “These infections can turn into something serious, with fever, pain that radiates to your face, neck and head and it can block your ear canal. Swimmer’s ear can put people in the emergency room.”

To avoid swimmer’s ear, it’s recommended to keep your ears dry. After swimming, showering, bathing – anytime the inside of the ear is wet or saturated – tilt and shake your head to drain the water from your ears. You can use a hair dryer on the low setting to dry out your ear, just keep it far away to avoid being burned.

Other things people can do include:   

  • Do not stick objects, even cotton swabs, into the ear.
  • Avoid excessive earplug use and remove hearing aids often to keep earwax from building up and being pushed into the ear canal.
  • Consider using over the counter ear drops after water exposure to prevent swimmer’s ear
  • People who are prone to swimmer’s ear should consider seeing a otolaryngologist to discuss other solutions

If you experience symptoms of swimmer’s ear, visit either Mercy Convenient Care location or call Mercy Clinic at 620-223-8040 for an appointment.

Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 32 hospitals, 300 outpatient facilities, 39,000 co-workers and 1,900 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.  For more about Mercy, visit www.mercy.net.

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