Preventing swimmer’s ear

By Alyssa LaRenzie • Published: August 31st, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Hot summer days and swimming pool fun just go together. But pool water and heat can combine to cause a painful ear infection.

Otitis externa [Oh-TIE-tus Ex-STURN-ah], more commonly known as “swimmer’s ear,” is an inflammation and infection of the ear canal and its wax-producing glands.

Nobody enjoys the pain and plugged up feeling that ensues, but preventing the condition might be easier than you think.

So what’s the solution? Keep that ear wax in, health experts say. The wax protects the ear’s thin skin against water, humidity and heat as well as bacteria. Leaving those cotton swabs alone before a swim on a hot summer’s day could help prevent that irritating ear infection by maintaining the ear’s wax barrier.

The most common cause of swimmer’s ear? Excess water, which often accumulates during swimming, hence the condition’s name. Loss of hearing, pain and itchiness are typical symptoms. Eardrops can help to relieve swimmer’s ear, and a warm washcloth or heating pad can ease ear pain. If the infection persists, ask a doctor. Antibiotics could be needed to wipe out swimmer’s ear if bacteria are contributing to the problem.

Once contracted, the infection can return more easily, so wearing earplugs in the pool could stop a repeat.

It’s best to try to avoid getting swimmer’s ear in the first place. So leave that pesky ear wax alone. It could make for a more pleasant… and audible… summer.