• How to Avoid Swimmer's Ear This Summer

    on May 1st, 2018

A day at the beach should be the best part of summer, not the start of a painful outer ear canal infection. Yet, water trapped in your ear can lead to inflammation and pain, a condition known as swimmer’s ear. Most ear infections occur in the middle ear, and while swimmer’s ear could be a secondary infection caused by a middle ear or respiratory infection, usually it exists on its own, caused by swimming or scratches in the ear canal.

Moisture in your ear after spending time in the water can turn into a breeding ground for bacterial or fungal organisms, which some bodies of water carry naturally. Poorly maintained pools or stagnant areas in lakes and streams are common spots for contamination.

Know the signs of swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear can progress from mild to painful very quickly. Each stage in the progression from mild to severe has its own symptoms. Catching swimmer’s ear early may nip this progression before pain gets intense.

Early stage

Moderate stage

Severe stage

Swimmer’s ear complications

Prompt treatment usually clears up swimmer’s ear infections quickly. Without medical attention, however, you may suffer serious complications. Some of these complications include:

Preventing swimmer’s ear

Gently drying your ears after swimming is the best way to prevent the conditions that encourage bacteria and fungus growth in your outer ear. Dry only your outer ear with a soft cloth, tipping your head to encourage draining of the ear canal. Don’t attempt to remove water with a cotton swab, since this could also remove the protective coating of ear wax, or cause scratches, into which infections may take hold.

Watch for warnings against high bacterial counts on public beaches and avoid swimming on days these warnings are in effect. Similarly, avoid over-crowded public pools or pools that appear to be poorly maintained.

Treating swimmer’s ear

If you suspect that you or your child has an outer ear infection, contact one of five Rose City Urgent Care & Family Practice locations nearest you in the Portland, Oregon area. Depending on the stage and type of infection, your caregiver will recommend a course of treatment.

Typically, acid-based ear drops restore your ears to a pH level that’s hostile to bacteria. Corticosteroids may be used to ease inflammation. Finally, antibiotics or antifungals typically make quick work of the source of the infection.

You’ll be instructed on how and when to administer the ear drops, and it’s important to follow all directions, even if you’re already feeling better. With prompt treatment, you’ll be ready for the beach again in no time.

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