The height of the summer season means more and more people flocking to the pools and beaches to cool off from the sweltering heat. It also brings with it an increased risk of swimmer’s ear, or inflammation of the skin in the ear canal. In fact, 44 percent of all swimmer’s ear cases occur between the months of June and August.
Swimmer’s ear occurs when water is trapped in the ear for an extended period of time and bacteria found in water breaks the skin barrier through cuts or scrapes in the ear canal. Once the skin barrier is broken, it opens up an entry point for the water bacteria to infect the area. The infection causes the skin to become inflamed and swell. This can be incredibly painful because there is not a lot of room in the ear to accommodate the swelling.
Anyone who goes swimming can get swimmer’s ear. Not surprisingly, the more time you spend in the water – lakes, ponds and pools alike – the more likely you are to develop this irritating condition. Those who clean or scratch their ears regularly are especially prone to swimmer’s ear because of an increased risk of trauma to the ear canal.
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include ear pain, itching and yellow and white discharge. The difference between a middle ear infection and swimmer’s ear is the presence of pain when the ear lobe is gently pulled. Tugging on the lobe of someone with swimmer’s ear will create movement in the infected canal and cause pain.
Studies suggest that topical treatments work best for uncomplicated swimmer’s ear. Antibiotic ear drops with or without a topical steroid may need to be prescribed to help decrease swelling. Treatment typically lasts a week before it is completely healed, but most patients feel relief from pain within three to four days of starting the drops.
To help prevent swimmer’s ear, remove any lingering water after swimming or bathing, shake your ears dry and place two to three drops of rubbing alcohol in your ear to evaporate the water.
If you want to learn more about how to prevent swimmer’s ear or other summer-related skin issues, visit Greenville Dermatology and speak to one of our skin care experts today. Call (864) 242-5872 to make an appointment.