With all the water play that happens in the summertime, it’s not uncommon for kids and adults to wind up getting water inside their ears from swimming or splashing around. This can lead to swimmer’s ear, an infection in the outer ear canal typically caused by moisture trapped in the ear after swimming. It doesn’t even take too much water to get a case of swimmer’s ear: it could happen from the bathtub, or rarely, even from water getting into your ear during a heavy rain! If you or your child gets swimmer’s ear, what can you expect and how do you get rid of it?
Swimmer’s Ear vs. An Ear Infection: Which One Do I Have?
Before starting any type of treatment, it’s important to know whether you have swimmer’s ear or an ear infection. There are some key differences between them that can help dictate whether or not you need to visit a doctor. Let’s highlight some of them:
- An itchy or painful ear canal
- A plugged or full ear
- No symptoms of a cold or a fever
- Ear discharge
- Trouble hearing or responding to sounds
- Fever of 100 F or higher
- Rubbing or tugging at the ear
- Pus or discharge coming from ear
- More than 2-3 days of symptoms
What Happens if You Have Swimmer’s Ear?
Getting water in your ear may make it difficult to hear and your ear may also feel blocked. Most times, the water will clear out on its own without having to do anything. But if the water does not dissipate on its own and you don’t treat it, you could develop swimmer’s ear, or an infection called otitis externa, which can cause swelling, irritation, and discomfort. Severe cases may lead to hearing loss or an infection spreading to the surrounding skin or other parts of the body, but this rarely happens.
What Do Doctors Do to Get Rid of Swimmer’s Ear?
After your doctor’s office examines and diagnoses your swimmer’s ear, they will likely prescribe antibiotic ear drops along with anti-fungal ear drops if the infection is determined to be fungus-related. Other common remedies include vinegar ear drops to help restore the bacterial balance in the ear and corticosteroids to help reduce swelling. If you are in pain, your doctor may also recommend pain medications to ease your discomfort. While you’re still healing, you may be told to avoid flying, swimming, or doing anything that may lead to more water entering in your ear.
How Can I Use Home Remedies to Help Get Rid of Swimmer’s Ear?
Let’s face it – we spend most of our time in the pool during the summertime. Swimmer’s ear is very common and we should learn how to treat it before it gets worse. Because we may not always want to resort to visiting a doctor’s office, let’s go over some home remedies that can help alleviate swimmer’s ear for you and your family. Some common home remedies include:
- Vinegar ear drops to help restore the bacterial balance in the ear.
- Corticosteroids to help reduce the swelling in the ear.
- Over the counter antihistamines to reduce itching in the ear.
- Use a heating pad (on low setting) on outer ear, which will decrease pain and increase drainage.
- Try to keep the ears dry, especially when showering or taking baths.
When in doubt, call your doctor to ensure these type of treatments will be safe for you.
Let’s Talk Prevention
While we all dread getting swimmer’s ear, there are definitely ways to prevent both you and your little ones from getting this pesky inconvenience! Some ways include:
Keep your ears dry! Remember to dry your ears after being in the water. When showering and taking baths, avoid letting water fall into your ears.
BE ALERT! Don’t swim in water where there might be bacteria growth, and always make sure to pay attention to warning signs that alert swimmers about the water.
Tilt your hide sideways to help drain any excess water from your ears. Always remember to do this after swimming and after taking showers or baths. It’s a good habit to form to ensure no water travels down your ear canal.
Avoid putting any type of foreign objects in the ear, such as cotton swabs. Cotton swabs are not your friend. Using them can actually push materials further in your ear and cause an infection.
Create preventative homemade ear drops! Use an ear drop solution before and after swimming to help intercept the growth of bacteria AND keep the ears dry. Use a 1 part vinegar and 1 part rubbing alcohol solution.
Can’t Find an Urgent Care Clinic Open Late in Galveston?
Hospitality Health ER in Galveston is open around the clock, 365 days a year. We are conveniently located on Seawall Blvd. for both visitors to Galveston as well as locals. If you dread the thought of a hospital wait room, don’t worry. You’ll be greeted by friendly staff in a beautiful, comfortable wait room. We have a separate intake and treatment area for COVID-19 patients.
If you’re visiting Galveston and looking for a board-certified doctor that is open 24-7, walk in to Hospitality Health ER.