Think twice before you dive into that swimming pool or a local Michigan lake. According to the CDC, swimmer’s ear results in around 2.4 million health care visits each year. The good news – you can prevent this painful infection with a few simple tips.

What Is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear is an infection that occurs in your outer ear canal, the part running between the outside of your head and your eardrum. It’s generally caused by water that’s left behind in the ear after you swim, which creates a moist environment that allows bacteria to grow. You can also end up with swimmer’s ear if you damage that thin layer of skin that lines the ear canal by putting cotton swabs, fingers or other objects into your ears.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms generally start out as mild, but if the infection spreads or isn’t treated, they may become worse. Symptoms, which vary based upon the progression of the infection, may include:

  • Mild Symptoms
    • Slight redness inside the ear
    • A small amount of odorless, clear drainage
    • Itching in the ear canal
    • Mild discomfort that gets worse if you pull on your ear
  • Moderate Symptoms
    • Increasing pain
    • Intense itching
    • Excessive drainage of fluid
    • More redness
    • Feeling like the ear is blocked or full
    • Muffled or reduced hearing
    • Pus discharge
  • Severe Symptoms
    • Swelling and/or redness of the outer ear
    • Fever
    • Severe pain that can radiate into the side of the head, neck or face
    • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
    • Total blockage of the ear canal

Tips for Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

Reduce your risk of swimmer’s ear by following a few helpful prevention tips.

  • Wear Earplugs – Keeping the water out of your ears with earplugs can lower your risk.
  • Avoid Swimming in Areas With High Bacteria Levels – If you enjoy swimming in Michigan’s rivers, ponds or lakes, be sure to check for posted signs about the bacteria levels. Higher levels of bacteria in the water increase your chance of getting bacteria in your ears.
  • Dry Ears Thoroughly – After you swim or shower, dry ears well with a towel. Tilt your head from side to side to allow water to escape your ear canal.
  • Avoid Putting Objects in the Ear Canal – Don’t put fingers, pencils, paper clips or cotton swabs into your ear, since they can be damaging.
  • Don’t Remove Ear Wax – It actually protects the ear canal from infection. If you think you have an ear wax blockage that’s affecting your hearing, we at Lakeshore Ear, Nose, Throat Center, PC can help you safely remove it.

When You Need Treatment

If you experience any of the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, even if they seem mild, it’s still important to contact us at Lakeshore Ear, Nose, Throat Center, PC. Without proper treatment, complications can occur, such as deep tissue infection, temporary hearing loss or a more widespread infection.

To treat the infection, we’ll begin by cleaning your outer ear canal. This will ensure eardrops can flow to all of the affected areas. We’ll use an ear curette or a suction device to clear away flaky skin, clumps of earwax, discharge and any other debris. In most cases, we’ll prescribe eardrops that have a combination of ingredients like steroids, antibiotics, antifungal medications and acidic solutions, based upon the seriousness and type of infection you have. If you’re dealing with a lot of pain, we’ll often suggest that you also use an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol, Aleve or Motrin.

Remember, the symptoms of swimmer’s ear shouldn’t be ignored. If you’re dealing with ear pain, redness, or any of the other signs and symptoms of this condition, contact Lakeshore Ear, Nose, Throat Center, PC today to book your appointment or schedule online.

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