Swimmer’s ear is a frequent expression used in reference to otitis externa because this health condition often strikes during the high swimming period of summer. Otitis externa means you have inflammation or a skin infection in your ear canal.
Your ears are more likely to become infected when exposed to excess moisture, as is the case with abundant swimming. The protective features of your ear works best in dry conditions. So, even a shower or bath can can trigger a bout of otitis externa.
- virus ~ herpes
- bacteria ~ staph
- sweating, high humidity
- fungus ~ aspergillosis, candida
- small ear canal that traps water easier ~ child
- excessive earwax because traps water in ear canal
- swimming in lake water with bacteria contamination
- skin problems ~ eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, acne
- devices that trap water in canal ~ hearing aid, swim cap, ear plugs
- allergic reaction to hair spray, hair dyes, bubble baths, soaps, shampoos, etc.
- harshly cleaning, scraping, scratching ear canal with cotton swabs, fingernail, sharp object
Otitis externa can be extremely painful. It’s itchy ear pain symptoms intensify when you tug, touch, chew or move your ear.
Beyond itchy ear pain, swimmer’s ear may also cause symptoms of:
- ear redness
- pus drainage
- low fever ~ rarely
- dizziness, vertigo
- feeling of ear fullness
- ear pain only in one ear
- swollen lymph nodes in neck
- ear canal swells shut causing hearing loss
In some cases, swimmers ear can become chronic, potentially causing cellulitis.
Generally, swimmer’s ear isn’t a serious health condition. However, infrequently malignant external otitis can develop if your swimmer’s ear is caused by a bacterial skin infection. This more serious health condition means a difficult to treat bacteria has invaded the bones inside your ear canal and spread into the base of your skull.
Malignant external otitis usually only occurs in those suffering certain other health condition, like diabetes, HIV, impaired immune system or on chemotherapy. So, if your itchy ear pain symptom is accompanied by sudden facial paralysis, hoarseness and throat pain, then this indicates you’ll need to see your health care provider ASAP for several month treatment of antibiotics because this rare infection can be life-threatening.
Suggested relief treatment for mild cases of swimmer ear you can try a solution of half and half of white vinegar and water. Using an ear dropper, trickle a couple drops in your ear twice a day.
For swimmer ear relief treatment of itchy ear pain, try applying a heating pad for a short period. Other pain relief options are OTC analgesics like aspirin (never to a child), ibuprofen or acetaminophen. And keep water out of your itchy ear for at least a week.
If your itchy ear pain of otitis externa doesn’t subside, then a visit with your health care provider may yield some prescription ear drop relief treatment. Depending on the cause for your swimmer ear, these drops for ears may contain:
- acidic solution
- antifungal to fight a fungal infection
- corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
- antibiotics to combat bacterial infection
Nonprescription ear drops aren’t typically strong enough to cure itchy ear pain of otitis externa.
However, these ear drying agents may help in prevention after water exposure. Or you could create your own swimmer’s ear prevention solution by mixing half and half of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, and slipping it into your ears after a swim.
Another method for getting that moisture out of your ear is wielding an ear dryer. Ear canal drying in a breeze.