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Everybody in the pool! It’s time for Swimmer’s Ear.

It’s starting to feel a lot like summer, which means what are we going to do about that swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear refers to an infection of the outer ear canal which is more likely to occur when it get’s wet. Typically, the combination of wax, wetness and warm that is present in the ear canal is the perfect medium for bacteria and fungal infections. The bacteria which usually grow in the ear canal are Pseudomonas and Staph Aureus so treatment has to be geared toward those two bugs. Fungus can also grow in the ear canal and that is usually Aspergillus, the fungus that is usually seen on bread mold. So what can we do to prevent getting swimmer’s ear? The first thing is to prevent the ear from getting wet. In the shower, you can put a piece of cotton in the ear and smear the outside with vaseline to prevent the water from wicking in. You can get an ear plug in the pharmacy that looks like silly putty (silicone) and put that in the canal. Be careful that it is not too small or you’ll never get it out. Make sure it fills the outer bowel of the ear (concha) so it’s easy to remove. If you already got water in the ear what can you do? You can put a solution of vinegar and alcohol (half and half) in the ear canal to dry it and sterilize it. There are commercially available drops called “Swimmer’s Ear” which have the same thing but it’s easier to carry around. Once the horse is out of the barn and you already have an ear infection which causes pain, drainage, swelling and decreased hearing, you will need more professional help. Ear drops that contain antibiotics and steroids are the mainstay of treatment. There are several different types. The important thing is to not take one that you know you are allergic to. If that doesn’t work, oral antibiotics are helpful but they have to be able to treat Pseudomonas and the only class of oral antibiotic that does that are Quinolones. It is also very helpful to get the ear cleaned out but you may need an Otolaryngologist or an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor to do this because it requires suctioning out the debris from the ear canal. It is not a good idea to irrigate out the ear when you have an infection because that only makes it worse. Sometimes if there is a lot of swelling a wick or cotton is inserted into the ear canal to allow medicine to wick through and get to the infection.  In my practice, I use cotton covered in antibiotic ointments and steroid ointment to produce the same effect. This usually works very well. If it turns out you have a fungal infection then you need antifungal solution drops like the kind you find in the athlete’s foot isle in the grocery store. This too needs to be suctioned out. Rarely oral antifungals are needed. If you have any questions, just ask.  Have a great time out on beach or in the pool this summer but most of all be safe and healthy.


One Response to Everybody in the pool! It’s time for Swimmer’s Ear.

  1. Caring Hearing says:

    Masterfully done!

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