It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, swimmer’s ear can ruin anyone’s day! We’ve talked a lot about drowning dangers in the past, but today let’s tackle this pesky infection instead. After all, a problem doesn’t need to be fatal to be worth discussing!
In today’s post, let’s look beyond pool fence safety and take a closer look at the far-too-common “swimmer’s ear.”
Understanding Swimmer’s Ear
For starters, let’s answer that burning question: “what is swimmer’s ear?” In a nutshell, it is a bacterial infection of the outer ear canal. This canal runs from your eardrum to the outer portion of your ear. According to the Mayo Clinic
, swimmer's ear is also called otitis externa. This infection is often brought on by water remaining inside your ear. As you can probably guess, this added moisture turns your once-healthy ear into a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
How Can I Catch Swimmer’s Ear?
Put simply, swimmer’s ear can strike whenever bacteria invade your ear canal. There are several ways this can happen. One example is when invasive objects, such as fingers or cotton swabs, enter your ear canal. Anything that can damage the delicate lining of your ear canal can put you at risk. Another example is when you submerge your ears in water. For instance, going for a swim, while a very healthy exercise
, is a great way to accidentally get water stuck in your ears. The trick is to get the water out and dry your ear canals as soon as possible. After all, your risk of infection increases the longer that water is stuck in your ear!
As we mentioned earlier, anyone can get swimmer’s ear. Typically, however, it affects children and teens most often. Unfortunately, reaching adulthood doesn’t mean you are in the clear. Depending on the size and shape of your ears… you might just be even more susceptible to infection. That’s why some folks seem to get swimmer’s ear more frequently than others. Their ears seem built for catching unwanted water.
Now that you understand what swimmer’s ear is, you’re probably much more interested in knowing how to prevent it! Fortunately, there are several steps a swimmer can take to even the odds against infection.
First and foremost, there’s our best natural defense. It might seem gross, but a natural buildup of ear wax is invaluable for staving off infection. It’s good to clean your ears, but don’t go overboard! A healthy build-up can repel excess water.
Earplugs or Bathing Caps
Now that we’re beyond the natural defenses, let’s bring out the special equipment. By blocking your open ears with earplugs or a bathing cap, you’ll totally eliminate the risk of water getting in there. If you’re worried about swimmer’s ear, these tools can be a huge help.
Check the Water!
We’ve talked about the importance of not drinking pool water
before, but you’ll still want to check on the general safety of the water whether or not it gets in your mouth. You should always make sure that the water you’ll be swimming in isn’t contaminated. Contaminated water can be hazardous to your health in plenty of ways beyond swimmer’s ear. To help avoid this risk, only swim in water of which you’re able to control and test the environment.
Don’t Forget to Dry Off
Finally, don’t think that just because you’re back on land you’re done with swimmer’s ear prevention. Believe it or not, you still have one important job to do. That’s right, it’s time for a thorough and careful dry-off session. Using a clean towel, carefully and thoroughly dry your ears. To help dislodge any trapped water, tilt your head to the sides while drying.
Treating an Infection
Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, infection is always possible. Fortunately, swimmer’s ear is more of an annoyance than a serious health risk. Most of the time it can be treated with over-the-counter eardrops. If the infection is lingering or particularly painful, you should visit a medical professional. It’s always best to have a doctor’s advice about your particular situation.
That’s about it. Good luck and stay safe in the water!