Swimmer's ear is an infection of the skin lining the ear canal. This problem is most common among swimmers or people that spend a lot of time in water. If you have swimmer's ear, you may have the following symptoms:
Swimmer's ear occurs when your ears have been in the water for long periods of time. When water gets trapped in the ear canal the lining becomes damp, swollen, and prone to infection.
You are more likely to get swimmer's ear from swimming in lake water, compared to swimming pools or the sea. During the hottest weeks of the summer, some lakes have high levels of bacteria. Narrow ear canals also increase the risk of swimmer's ear. Cotton swabs also contribute to the problem by causing wax buildup which traps water behind it.
With treatment, symptoms should be better in 3 days and cleared up in 7 days.
You need the eardrops prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Run the eardrops down the side of the ear canal's opening so that air isn't trapped under the drops. Move the earlobe back and forth to help the eardrops pass down. Keep using the eardrops until all the symptoms are cleared up for 48 hours.
Generally, you should not swim until the symptoms are gone. If you are on a swim team, you may continue, but use the eardrops as a rinse after each swimming session.
For mild swimmer's ear, use half-strength white vinegar eardrops. Fill the ear canal with white vinegar diluted with an equal amount of water. After 5 minutes, remove it by turning your head to the side. Do this twice a day until the ear canal is back to normal.
Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain relief.
The key to prevention is keeping the ear canals dry when you are not swimming. After swimming, get all water out of your ear canals by turning your head to the side and pulling the earlobe in different directions to help the water run out. Dry the opening to the ear canal carefully. If recurrences are a big problem, rinse your ear canals with rubbing alcohol each time you finish swimming or bathing to help it dry and kill germs. Another helpful home remedy is a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half white vinegar. The vinegar restores the normal acid balance to the ear canal.
Ask your healthcare provider if you should use ear plugs or a swim cap.
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