With summers in full swing, swimming is becoming everyone’s go to sport. One gets the requisite workout, and the refreshing water also helps in cooling off. However, many people get apprehensive about swimming, from the fear of germs, large water bodies harbor, and subsequent problems that ensue. One such common condition is swimmer’s ear.
What is a swimmer’s ear?
Caused due to prolonged exposure of the ear to the water, this condition is medically known as external otitis. However, unlike what the name suggests, swimmers’ ear occurs in not only the people who swim but can occur otherwise as well.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection that afflicts the outside of the ear. This condition results from bacterial growth, which occurs when water remains in the ear. Since bacteria thrive in humid conditions, therefore, infection ensues. The infection may also result from damage to the skin lining the ear canal. Actions like putting a finger in the ear, using cotton swabs, or putting an object in the ear may lead to this condition.
When treated immediately by the Best ENT specialist in Lahore, the prognosis of the disease is much better. If, however, left untreated, the condition can become worse.
Swimmer’s ear is a progressive disease. When not treated in the beginning, the symptoms become worse.
Initially, it presents as itching in the ear canal. Due to the inflammation, there might also be redness and pain in the area. There may even be drainage of clear fluid from the ear, alongside discomfort.
Moderate case of swimmer’s ear is exacerbation of mild symptoms like an even worse pain and itching. Drainage of the pus like fluid also increases. You might also feel as if there is something stuffed inside of the ear. At this point, the symptoms also start to impair the hearing as well.
In extreme conditions, the disease gets to the point where the pain spreads to your head, face and even the neck is engulfed in pain. The ear canal gets blocked completely. Redness and swelling also ensues in the outer part of the ear.
The infection may also spread to your lymph nodes, swelling them as a result. There also might be fever alongside the infection then.
Whereas the precise reason for disease is bacteria, certain things specifically endanger the ear, especially if the defense mechanism of the ears, the wax, is compromised.
One major cause is moisture in the ear, whether it be due to swimming, shower or sweat; anything that leads to accumulation of dampness in the ear can cause the infection.
Moreover, any damage to the canal can also be the cause for the swimmer’s ear. If the skin of the canal is broken, there is a chance that bacteria can attack the ear. Using cotton swabs, wearing ear buds, using hearing aids, scratching ears with nails or abrasive tools like hair pins can cause damage to the skin.
At times, allergic reactions can also cause infections in the ear. This is often a result of some hair product or even some jewelry.
Certain habits can increase the probability of getting swimmer’s ear. One of the most important risk factors is depleted ear wax.
Ear wax is waterproof, so forms a protective layer that prevents water from entering and accumulating in the air. It has antibacterial properties, and acidic pH, both of which help in keeping bacteria away from the ear.
Thus, when this protective functioning of the ear wax is missing-in-action, the risk for bacterial infections in the ear increases.
Other risk factors include swimming, especially in dirty water which has greater amounts of harmful bacteria, bathing etc. Moreover, cleaning the ear canal with Q-tips or prodding at the ear that can then break the skin of the canal also increases the risk.
Skin conditions like eczema, having small ear canal, wearing hearing aid can also cause higher chances of swimmer’s ear. Moreover, too much ear wax is also not a good sign.
The treatment might be contingent on the stage of the infection. Most often, antibiotic ear drops are prescribed to treat the infections. Corticosteroid ear drops are used to curb the inflammation that accompanies this condition.
If the pain is substantial, people can also take pain medicine. It is also important that you keep your ear dry during all this ordeal.
In case the reason for the infection is some other underlying health condition like skin problem, doctors may also be treating it alongside.
Swimmer’s ear can be prevented using simple tips. The most important being keeping the ears dry. Make sure that after swimming or shower, you wipe your outer ears gently, using a cloth or soft tissue.
Ensure that you swim in clean waters and use ear plugs when swimming. Dry your ears immediately after coming out of water, but do not poke inside the ears. Tilt your head to promote drainage. Likewise, pull your ear lobe in multiple directions to get the water going out from the ear.
It is also important that you refrain from putting things inside your ear, whether it be fingers, cotton buds or hairpins.
Furthermore, limit your exposure to chemicals in your ear. Put in cotton swabs to protect your ears as you slather on hair products. However, if despite everything, swimmer’s ear is still plaguing you, it is best that you enlist the help of the Best ENT specialist in Islamabad.