What is Swimmer's Ear?

Do your kids seem to have itchy ears that really irritate them? You may have experienced it too. It could be swimmer’s ear that you are suffering from.

Swimmer’s ear is the name for a condition caused by an infection in the external ear. It is so named because swimmers are usually the ones that suffer the most. The uncomfortable results occur when moisture gets trapped in the ear canal. Bacteria love to grow where it is warm and moist and that would be your ear.

You don’t necessarily have to be a swimmer to get swimmer’s ear. People who live in warm climates or who spend a lot of time around water are often susceptible. Even away from water, you may encounter this condition if you use cotton swabs to clean your ears or use chemicals on your hair that can drip down and collect in the outer auricle of the ear.

Who else is likely to suffer from this condition? Those who have skin conditions are good candidates. Eczema affects the skin of the ears as well and can cause itching and redness without wet ears, but it may get worse if water has led to bacteria in the ear.

Here’s what happens in the ear. The bacteria found naturally in your ear canal are at a normal level to be helpful to your body. When moisture and warmth are added, the bacteria begin to proliferate. Now, you have more bacteria than you need on the surface of your skin and they begin to wreak havoc.

Confined to the ear canal, swimmer’s ear causes redness, itching and possible drainage from the ear. If it continues down the ear canal towards the middle ear, it could result in problems with your hearing - even causing damage to the delicate bones of the middle ear. One way to potentially avoid swimmer’s ear is to keep your ears nice and dry.

After swimming, have a dry towel or cloth available to dry your ears. Lean to one side and then the other to flush any excess water from the ear canal. Dry your hair as well. It can drip water and other chemicals into the ear canal even after you have dried your ears.

Check your ears regularly for cuts or scrapes. These areas are open wounds in your skin that can also attract bacteria and lead to swimmer’s ear. Use antibiotic ointment on these areas to prevent bacterial growth, and keep the water out.

This condition is more common amongst kids because they play a lot and don’t always clean their ears well. If you see them pulling at their ear canal, examine them for redness and any drainage. An otolaryngologist can tell better after examining their ears.