It’s a familiar summer feeling for those who spend a lot of time swimming in lakes and pools – your ear begins itching, it turns red and swollen, and then becomes painful as fluid begins draining out of the ear. The diagnosis: swimmer’s ear.
“When a person is in the water a long time, the ear wax becomes diluted and is not able to protect our ears as well from bacteria that causes infections,” said Ashtabula County Medical Center Pediatrician Sampurna Shakya, MD. “If you scratch your ear with earbuds or a hearing aid or by using a cotton swab in your ear you can get an outer ear infection.”
The prescribed treatment for swimmer’s ear is a course of antibiotics and possibly limited-use of a steroid. Dr. Shakya said ibuprofen – prescription-strength or the over-the-counter version – may also be recommended for pain management.
“We also discuss ways to prevent swimmer’s ear,” he said. “We recommend that if you are going to be in the water for a long time, that you use earplugs to prevent water from getting in your ear. Once you get out of the water, dry your ears thoroughly. We also recommend that you do not use cotton swabs in your ears.”
While we may not like the build-up of ear wax in our ears, it provides different levels of protection from bacteria and other things which can harm our ears.
“Earwax is very protective. It is water-resistant and the acidic environment blocks bacteria before we get an infection. Ear wax traps dust before it goes deep into our ear canals. It is also a natural moisturizer that keeps the skin inside the ear from drying out,” Dr. Shakya said.
If you’re concerned about swimmer’s ear or if you want to talk with a pediatrician about other ear problems your child may be experiencing, schedule an appointment with an ACMC pediatrician by calling 440-997-6980.