When water or moisture gets in the ear and stays there, it can lead to swimmer's ear. Water trapped in the ear canal creates a moist environment where bacteria and fungi can grow, causing inflammation and infection.
Swimmer's ear can start after swimming, long showers or just from living in a hot, humid climate. Also, anything that damages the skin of the ear (including cotton swabs, ear plugs, bug bites and exposure to chemicals like hair spray and hair dye) can cause inflammation. Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis can also lead to swimmer's ear.
Swimmer's ear can be uncomfortable, but treatment can usually clear up the infection quickly.
Signs of swimmer's ear
Swimmer's ear often causes ear itchiness, pain and swelling in the canal. Pain may get worse when you move your jaw to chew or talk. You might also feel pressure or fullness in your ear, like it's plugged up. If the infection gets worse, you may have swollen glands in your neck, and yellowish pus may ooze from your ear.
Treating the ear-itation
If you have swimmer's ear, there are some simple treatments to help clear it up and prevent it from getting worse. But, you'll need to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and perhaps medication.
Your doctor will check your inner and outer ear to find out the extent of the problem. He or she may suction out any fluid or debris that is present and take a close look at your eardrum to make sure it's not damaged.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eardrops. These work well and cause fewer side effects than oral medications. If your ears do not feel better after three or four days using these drops, let your doctor know.
Oral antibiotics are sometimes needed to treat swimmer's ear. You might need them if you have diabetes (which can impair your ability to fight infection) or you have a temperature higher than 101 degrees F or other signs of advanced infection.
Eardrops containing corticosteroids also work quickly to ease the pain and itchiness of swimmer's ear. Hold the bottle in your hands for a few minutes to warm the drops before putting them in your sensitive ear. To help the drops swish around throughout the infected areas, tug on your earlobe while you insert them.
To relieve the pain, use pain relievers (such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen) as needed. But don't give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It can increase the risk for Reye's syndrome, a rare brain and liver inflammation. Check with your doctor before taking anything over-the-counter if you take any other medications or have any medical problems.
Avoid swimming until all the symptoms have cleared up.
Preventing swimmer's ear
If your ears are stuffy after swimming or bathing, then take the following steps to clear them before problems develop:
Talk to your doctor about seeing an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) if you have recurring ear infections.SOURCES:
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