Jul 25, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Lori Bonham

With the hot weather many are cooling off in the water at the pool or lake, but too much time in the water may not always be a good thing for your ears. Swimmer’s ear is an infection, which doctors call otitis externa and commonly occurs when water lingers in the ear canal. The infection can be caused by different types of bacteria or fungi in the ear due to excessive amounts of water. More than 40 percent of swimmer’s ear cases occur during the months of June and August, which symptoms include ear pain, decreased hearing, itching, and yellow and white discharge.

Luckily, there are ways to treat swimmer’s ear by carefully cleaning the ear canal by using eardrops that reduce bacterial or fungal growth. Treatment usually lasts for a week before it is fully healed, but the pain should lessen within a few days of treatment. Prompt treatment may help decrease complications and more-serious infections.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology here are some tips to prevent swimmers ear:

  • Keep ears dry. Prolonged humid weather or water that remains in your ear after swimming can generate a good environment for bacteria.
  • Protect your ears by wearing ear plugs when swimming
  • Use a dry towel or a blow dryer to dry ears
  • Avoid using cotton swabs, paper clip or hairpin to dig out earwax with items. Using these items may pack material deeper into your ear canal and cause an infection.
  • If you have itchy ears or lots of earwax have your ears cleaned occasionally by an otolaryngologist.

For more information about swimmer’s ear or to schedule an appointment with one of our ear, nose, and throat physicians visit healthcare.utah.edu/ent.

Lori Bonham

Lori Bonham is a marketing manager at University of Utah Health. Follow her on Twitter: @bonhaml

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