It’s midway through the summer and many of us have had our fair share of trips to the beach or pool. As summer progresses, here’s a guide on what you should know about swimmer’s ear: symptoms, treatment and prevention. 

First of all, what is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmers ear is a bacterial infection in the outer ear that usually occures when the ear stays wet long enough to breed germs. Usually along the lining of the ear, from the eardrum to the outer ear, swimmer’s ear can occur if fluid, water or moisture remains in the outer ear for too long. In most cases swimmers ear can occur by swimming in waters with high bacteria counts. 

What are the symptoms of swimmer’s ear?

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear can be mild, moderate, or severe. It is important to be aware of the symptoms so that prevention and treatment can begin in order to protect you and your family.

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Mild symptoms may include:

  • Itching
  • Pain from pulling or pushing on the infected ear
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Feeling that the ear is clogged. 

Severe symptoms may include:

  • Swelling of the ear
  • Pain extending into your neck
  • A high fever
  • Tender lymph nodes and possibly a discharge. 

 

How do we treat swimmer’s ear? 

At AFC Urgent Care Danbury we  (gently) try to first examine your ear to ensure that the eardrum is intact. If we see any debris we try to carefully remove it as the ear can be highly sensitive. In most cases we will prescribe antibiotic ear drops, to be used 2-3 times per day for 7 days, and we’ll talk to you about caring for your swimmer’s ear while your ear heals. 

Tip! We recommend applying ear drops with the ear facing up. While healing, we recommend that you:

  • Do not swim during treatment
  • Do not use earplugs 
  • Do not fly during treatment
  • When bathing protect your ears with cotton balls with petroleum jelly on them

 

How to prevent swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear can occur to any age group, although most prevalent amongst kids. It can be difficult to avoid if not careful when going into waters that are unsafe or have a high bacteria count, or if you are not careful about sticking things in your ear that can open up the possibility for germs to breed. Here’s how to avoid swimmer’s ear for you and your family:

  • Avoid swimming in waters with high bacteria counts
  • Avoid sticking any sharp objects deep into the ear canal, including Q-tips
  • Don’t use ear plugs, especially for an extended period of time
  • Tilt your head when coming out of the water to get excess water out ( try hopping up and down)
  • Dry your ears off to avoid water going in

There are also some home care remedies that you can use to help avoid infection or if you are experiencing an infection. The most popular home care remedies are white vinegar and alcohol to help keep the ear canal clean, but we recommend that you only use that if you are sure that your eardrum is intact and not ruptured. In other words, we recommend speaking to a health provider prior to using any home remedies.

We’re here to help !

 If you or someone is experiencing symptoms of swimmer’s ear, come to any one of our 3 urgent care centers where our staff is equipped to care for ear infections. AFC Urgent Care Danbury’s walk-in centers are open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm Monday-Friday and 8am-5pm on the weekends. We are located at 2 Main Street at the corner of South and Main, 100 Mill Plain Road in Danbury and at 76C Newtown Road in Danbury, CT. You can save time by checking in online and we accept most insurances.