Swimmer’s ear: what it is, and how you can avoid it

Swimming is a cracking form of exercise; it’s impact free, and burns a huge load of calories.  Essentially, there’s nothing about it not to like!  The one thing to bear in mind, however, is a condition called swimmer’s ear: it can be pretty unpleasant and painful.  Today, we’re going to take a look at this unique condition.

What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear (known by the technical name of otitis externa) is an infection of the outer ear canal that can cause both pain and discomfort.  There is no age limit, so adults and children can both be infected. 

Typically, the condition occurs in people who spend a lot of time in the pool, although it can also occur in people with diabetes or weak immune systems.

What are the symptoms?

Swimmer’s ear can occur in a number of different ways, but the main symptom is that the ear canal becomes inflamed, red in colour and sensitive to touch.  Ear wax offers a protective layer against the water, but the water itself can wash this away. 

On some occasions, swimmer’s ear can be caused by a fungal infection or a pimple in the ear.  Typically, the ear will become itchy and on some occasions there may be some clear, white or yellow discharge and on some very rare occasions you may feel dizzy.

How to combat swimmer’s ear?

There are a number of different ways in which you can help to combat this irritating and (at times) painful condition):

    • Wear ear plugs.  One of the best ways to help manage the problem is to prevent water getting into the ears.  Any high quality ear plugs should get the job done, and it can be a good idea to purchase a head band to ensure the ear plugs stay in place.
    • Keep your ears clean.  An effective way to remove any build up in the ear is to clean it using a 3-per cent hydrogen peroxide solution.  Ensure you thoroughly dry the ear, though, so that no moisture is left behind.
    • Avoid putting objects into your ear.  This might sound obvious, but remember that we’re including things like Q-Tips and tissues here.  Absolutely nothing should go anywhere near your ear that’s not specifically made for the purpose, such as ear drops.
    • Ensure you thoroughly dry your ears using a clean towel, tilting your head both ways to ensure that any water build up can escape the ear canal.

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