Things to know about Swimmer's Ear
Many of us in the southern hemisphere are not so lucky to see a White Christmas, however Christmas in the sand can be just as sweet and we look forward to our time on the beach during the upcoming December break. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we might not all be able to enjoy the ocean this year, but it can be guaranteed all swimming pools are going to be well utilized throughout this hot summer.
We all know about the perils of UV rays and we take the necessary precaution to protect our skin and eyes from the sun. Kids can be covered from head to toe in UV protection gear when playing in the water, but the one thing that not many realise is that their ears need to be protected from the water as well.
is a painful infection of the outer ear canal. The medical term is otitis externa and it literally means infection of the ear. It is mainly caused by water left in the ear creating a ripe environment for bacteria to grow and cause infection. Symptoms often include itchiness or ringing inside the ear, redness or swelling, pain when the ear is touched or pulled and in severe cases pus may protrude from the ear canal. Statistics show that at least 10% of the population will have at least one acute case of swimmer’s ear in their lifetime. Mild cases of swimmer’s ear are not considered a medical emergency and can be treated at home with a pain killer or ear drops, which can be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy and should be administered up to 7 to 10 days. However, medical attention must be sought if pain persists, even with medication, fever presents and pus or drainage from the ear occurs. It is highly recommended to visit an audiologist or ENT to clean out the ear and to prescribe antibiotics if needed.
The best way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to keep your ears as dry as possible. This does not mean you should use ear buds/cotton swabs! As ear buds can often cause more damage and do not clean ears properly. After swimming or showering, it’s recommended that you dry your ears thoroughly with a towel. You can also tilt your head so that each ear faces the ground and gravity will help empty out excess water.
For more information please look at the CDC’s fact sheet linked here:
Swimmers’ ear must not be confused with surfer’s ear. Surfer’s ear is not an acute condition and develops over time. Extra bone forms as lumps that grow in the ear canal because of long periods of exposure to cold water and wind causing the ear canal to become smaller in diameter close to the eardrum, as you can clearly see in the image alongside taken with the KUDUscope this patient presents with a typical surfer’s ear. Looking at 23 Neanderthal skulls, researchers from the U.S. and France found surfers’ ear in about half of them. It is likely an indication that they spent a lot of time in the water.