Swimmer’s ear is one such condition that can arise from swimming, as the name implies. It is also commonly called otitis externa.
The duration of swimmer’s ear typically ranges from seven to ten days, but this might change depending on the severity of the condition. Chronic cases of swimmer’s ear can endure for weeks or even months. The length of symptoms is typically shortened as a result of treatment.
This article will explain all you need to know about swimmer’s ear.
What happens if swimmer’s ear is left untreated?
Before going further, it’s important to know what swimmer’s ear is.
Otitis externa, more often known as swimmer’s ear, is a painful ailment that affects the outer ear and ear canal and is brought on by infection, inflammation, or irritation.
These symptoms frequently manifest themselves after water becomes caught in the ear, and this is especially true if the water contains bacteria or fungi along with it. The term “swimmer’s ear” was used to describe this ailment due to its prevalence among swimmers.
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:
- Redness and itchiness of the outer ear
- Inflamed ear canals
- Swollen glands in the neck.
- Hearing loss
When left untreated, infections of any kind are never good news. Swimmer’s ear is not an exception. Some complications include:
- Hearing loss from the swollen ear canal.
- Repeated ear infections
- Damage to the bone and cartilage
- Referred infections to other tissues such as the brain and cranial nerves.
- It is possible for an outer ear infection to result in a number of complications if it is not treated and if it does not heal on its own.
- It’s possible for abscesses to form all around the affected area inside the ear. These could heal on their own, or your doctor might need to drain them in order to speed up the process.
- Infections of the outer ear that last for an extended period of time can cause the ear canal to become more constricted. Narrowing can have an effect on one’s hearing and, in the most severe cases, can even lead to complete deafness. Antibiotics will be necessary in order to treat this condition.
- A perforated or ruptured eardrum may also be a complication of an outer ear infection that was brought on by the insertion of foreign objects into the ear canal. This can be a very agonizing experience. Hearing loss that is only temporary, a ringing or buzzing sensation in the ear, discharge, and bleeding from the ear are some of the symptoms.
- Necrotizing otitis externa is a form of malignant otitis externa that only occurs very rarely. When this occurs, the infection spreads to the cartilage and bone that surrounds your ear canal. This is a very serious complication that can lead to permanent hearing loss.
- Adults who have compromised immune systems are the ones who are most at risk. In the absence of treatment, it can be fatal. This situation is being treated as a medical emergency, and some of the symptoms include:
- Intense discomfort in the ears and headaches, particularly when sleeping
- Persistent discharge from the ears
- Facial nerve palsy, often known as drooping of the face, on the side of the face that is affected by the damaged ear
What causes swimmer’s ear?
- An outer ear infection can be caused by swimming, or possibly even by taking too many baths or showers in a short period of time. The water that is left behind in the ear canal might serve as a fertile breeding environment for germs.
- If the delicate layer of skin that lines the ear canal is damaged in any way, this can potentially lead to an infection. This fragile skin can be harmed by vigorous scratching, the use of headphones, or the insertion of cotton swabs into the ear canal.
- It is possible for germs to gain a foothold in this layer of skin if it becomes damaged and irritated. The ear’s natural defense against infection is called cerumen, which is earwax. However, prolonged contact with moisture and scratching can reduce the amount of cerumen in the ear, which in turn increases the risk of infection.
Can swimmer’s ear heal on its own?
Swimmer’s ear can heal by itself in mild cases of infections. However in a chronic case, where the bacteria or fungus overpowers your body’s immune system, you might need to take external medication to get rid of the causative factor.
How do you get rid of swimmer’s ear without drops?
- After swimming or being exposed to water in any other way, the water should be removed from the ears.
- Make sure the ears are kept dry. Use an earplug that is designed to keep water out of your ears while you shower or swim, or plug your ears with cotton balls that have been coated in Vaseline on the exterior.
- It is important to refrain from doing things like scratching the ear canal or cleaning it with cotton swabs. This will just make the irritated skin more uncomfortable, and in most cases, it will make the condition even more severe.
- It is recommended that the hearing aid be removed as much as possible until the swelling and discharge have subsided.
- Always use drugs in accordance with the directions provided by your doctor, and do not stop taking them until specifically told to do so by your healthcare provider. When treating an infection in the ear canal with antibiotics, it is possible that the use of a wick will be required.
- It is possible to slightly acidify the ear canal using a DIY ear drip mixture that consists of 50% rubbing alcohol, 25% white vinegar, and 25% distilled water. This mixture can also be used to prevent infections as well as treat moderate infections that are caused by bacteria or fungus.
How can you tell the difference between an ear infection and swimmer’s ear?
Find out where the discomfort is coming from.
- The pain associated with swimmer’s ear is felt in the portion of the ear canal that is closest to the aperture of the ear, and it is exacerbated by tugging or pulling on the earlobe. The discomfort associated with a middle ear infection is felt in the middle ear, close to the ear drum. This pain is typically made worse by lying down, which can also make it difficult to fall or stay asleep.
- Look for visual indicators.
- If your child is complaining of an earache, paying attention to the following signs may be extremely helpful: When a person has swimmer’s ear, the outer ear may become inflamed, red, and swollen, and it may have the appearance of a rash. You may notice that your youngster scratches at his ear regularly or that he complains of having an itchy ear. Be on the lookout for discharge that stinks coming from the ear or ears that is troubling the person. Fever, pulling or straining on the ear, decreased appetite, diarrhea, or vomiting are some of the symptoms that you may experience if you have an infection in your middle ear.
- Make sure there isn’t any trouble hearing.
- It is possible that temporary hearing loss will be one of the first symptoms that you notice when you have an infection in the middle ear or swimmer’s ear, but this is not always the case.
- Take into account the circumstances that contributed
- Have you recently gone swimming in a lake, pool, or hot tub before you started experiencing pain in your ears? You do not need to be a swimmer in order to acquire swimmer’s ear, despite the name of the condition. This disease can also be brought on by something as simple as cleaning your ears with a cotton swab or taking a shower or bath. In the days leading up to the onset of pain in the inner ear, your kid may have displayed symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, such as congestion, a runny nose, and watery eyes, if they have an infection in their middle ear.
Does swimmer’s ear feel clogged?
Yes, it does. One of the first tell tale signs of swimmer’s ear, is a full or clogged feeling in the ear.
Do over the counter ear drops work for swimmer’s ear?
Yes, they could. However, prescription ear drops are really the best for such an issue.
The drops that are recommended to patients the most often mix an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid medication with either an antibiotic or acetic acid.
In the event that the illness is brought on by a fungus, rather than prescribing antibiotic ear drops, your physician may opt to give you antifungal ear drops instead.
Your symptoms should start to improve within twenty-four hours of using the ear drops prescribed to you, and they should be completely gone within two or three days.
On the other hand, over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops, which often consist of isopropyl alcohol and glycerin, are designed to speed up the process of the ear drying out rather than to treat the infection that is causing it.
Treatments for swimmer’s ear
- It’s possible that swimmer’s ear won’t need treatment if it heals on its own. Eardrops with antibiotics are the most common form of treatment for an infection of the outer ear that has not resolved on its own. Your physician may recommend that you take them.
- Antibiotic drops combined with steroids are another option that doctors may use to minimize inflammation in the ear canal. Ear drops are normally administered multiple times per day over a period of seven to ten days.
- Antifungal ear drops will be prescribed by your doctor if it is determined that a fungus is the source of the infection in your outer ear. People who have diabetes or a weakened immune system are at a greater risk of contracting this sort of infection.
- During the time that the infection is getting better, it is essential not to get any water in the ear, since this will help lessen the symptoms.
- It is possible to alleviate pain with the use of painkillers that are available without a prescription, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In severe circumstances, pain medication that requires a prescription may be recommended.
How do you treat swimmer’s ear naturally?
The primary focus of at-home therapy for outer ear infections should be on preventing further infections. Keeping the ear as dry as possible will help reduce the likelihood of developing an infection.
Other considerations to keep in mind include the following:
- While taking a shower or bath, you can avoid getting water in your ears by blocking them with cotton balls or wearing soft earplugs.
- Making use of a swim hat
- Avoid scraping the ear canal at all costs, including with cotton swabs.
- Eliminating ear wax on your own is not recommended.
- After swimming, applying eardrops containing a mixture of rubbing alcohol and/or vinegar to assist with drying off excess water (the mixture is 50 percent rubbing alcohol, 25 percent white vinegar, and 25 percent distilled water)
- After swimming, drying off the head and ears with a towel.