With the warmer weather and school holidays upon us finding activities the whole family will enjoy can be difficult. Cooling off in the pool or ocean are great options to help beat the heat and is enjoyed by all ages. However, for some this activity may result in painful ear infections or, ‘swimmer’s ear’.

What is ‘swimmer’s ear’?

External otitis or swimmer’s ear is a painful condition caused by infection or inflammation of the skin covering the outer ear and ear canal after excessive exposure to water. After lengthy periods of time the water collected in the ear canal can be trapped by wax and cause the spread of fungal or bacterial organisms, resulting in infection.

Who is at risk of swimmer’s ear?

The swimmer’s ear condition commonly affects:

  • Swimmers
  • Children and teenagers
  • Those with eczema
  • Those with excess earwax

What are the signs and symptoms?

The most common symptom of swimmer’s ear is constant itching and pain inside the ear that gets worse when touched. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Blocked or full sensation in the ear
  • Swelling and redness of the ear canal
  • Fever
  • Drainage
  • Decreased hearing
  • Pain around the ear and upper neck

Swimmer’s ear needs to be treated accordingly to prevent the spread of infection, as well as to reduce pain and other negative effects.

What can I do to treat it?

  1. Medical treatment
    Medications such as antibiotics, ear drops, and antiseptics can be prescribed by your GP to treat swimmer’s ear. Anti-inflammatory agents can also be taken to reduce pain and swelling.
  2. Home remedies
    Warmth from a heating pad may provide temporary pain relief. A white vinegar rinse may be used in mild cases of swimmer’s ear to reduce swelling and help restore the ear canal’s natural pH.

Tips for prevention

  • Use earplugs when swimming.
  • Thoroughly dry your ears after exposure to water.
  • Be careful when using cotton swabs when cleaning your ears.
  • Have your ears regularly cleaned by your GP if you have excessive earwax.