As the name implies, swimmer's ear occurs frequently in youngsters who spend a lot of time in the water. Too much moisture within the ear can irritate and damage the canal skin, allowing germs or fungus to enter. It is particularly frequent during the summer, when swimming is popular.
You don't have to be a swimmer to acquire a swimmer's ear though, damage to the skin of the ear canal can be aggravated by dry skin, atopic dermatitis, injuring the ear canal, cleaning the ears with a cotton swab, or inserting foreign objects such as bobby pins or clips.
And, if a person has otitis media, pus can be leaked into the ear canal through the hole in the eardrum, producing the condition.
When to see a doctor?
If your outer ear remains red and itchy for more than a week, or if you have any of the following, contact your doctor:
- Presistent Itching
- Pain that gets worse when you tug on your outer ear
- Drainage or pus leaking from the ear
- Difficulty Hearing, muffled hearing
- Moderate to severe pain in the neck, face or side of head
- Swollen lymph nodes or swelling in the neck or near the ear
Swimmer’s Ear Types
Long-term swimmer's ear (chronic otitis externa).
This is when swimmer's ear doesn't go away within 3 months. It can happen if you have hard-to-treat infections with bacteria, fungus, or allergies, or skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. Your doctor may need to test a sample of any fluid in your ear to help you decide on the best treatment.
Other infections. Sometimes, the bacteria can spread deeper into your skin or to other parts of your body. One rare condition is malignant otitis externa, which happens when the infection moves into bone and cartilage in your head. It's a medical emergency, and it's most common in older people with diabetes and people with HIV or other immune system problems.
Facts: Ask the ENT Nurses
Swimmer's ear affects a different part of the ear canal than a typical ear infection.
Swimmer's ear gets treated differently than a regular ear infection.
There are some symptoms specific to swimmer's ear.
Earplugs aren't necessarily the best preventive measure.