Tips to Avoid Swimmer's Ear this Summer

As temperatures soar during California’s summer months, nothing provides better relief than a dip into some cool water. While we encourage you to beat the heat by diving into the pool, ocean, or lake, we don’t want your ears to fall prey to an infection, which can eclipse even the heat when it comes to misery.

Here at Express Lane Urgent Care, we want to partner with our patients in the Turlock community for great health. To that end, we’ve pulled together some tips for avoiding swimmer’s ear, which can quickly put a damper on your summertime fun.

Swimmer’s ear 101

Before we get into effective prevention techniques, let’s quickly take a look at what swimmer’s ear is and how it develops. Medically known as otitis externa, swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal. Swimmer’s ear develops when water lingers in your ear, allowing infection-causing bacteria to grow and invade the skin inside your outer canal. Swimmer’s ear tends to develop more often in children, but adults can succumb to the infection as well.

The symptoms of swimmer’s ear are:

  • Itchiness in your ear
  • Redness and swelling
  • Pain in your ear, especially when you tug at it
  • Discharge from your ear

Swimmer’s ear can be very uncomfortable, and often downright painful, when the infection takes hold.

Preventing swimmer’s ear

The heat relief you get from swimming shouldn’t be avoided because of the potential for swimmer’s ear, especially if you take a few precautionary steps, including:

Keep ears dry

Since swimmer’s ear develops from water trapped in your ear, the most effective way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to make sure that your ears are dry after swimming. When you come out of the water, tilt your head to each side to drain the water from your ears, and tug at your lobes so that you get all of it out. Then use a towel to dry the outer part of your ears.

If you or your child has recurring problems with swimmer’s ear, consider using a blowdryer on the lowest setting to ensure the canal is dry.

Plug it up

Another highly effective way to prevent water from lingering in your ears is to not let any in, by using ear plugs designed for water. You can find these plugs at any pharmacy, and you simply pop them in before hitting the water.

Wax is not the enemy

The wax in your ears is designed to repel water and bacteria, so don’t eliminate this natural barrier. 

Bacteria are your enemy

Be sure that the water you’re swimming in isn’t carrying a high bacteria count. Public swimming pools can be hotbeds for bacteria, so check that your local pool is properly disinfected. If you have a pool at home, quick and easy test strips will let you know whether your water is safe for swimming.

Ear drops

If you’ve struggled with swimmer’s ear in the past, there are over-the-counter ear drops that help dry your ears after being in the water. We do caution against overusing these drops as they can chap the skin inside your canals. Used judiciously, however, these drops can be very helpful.

When swimmer’s ear develops

If, despite your best efforts, you or your child still develop swimmer’s ear, we can quickly resolve the issue here at our urgent care center. We’re open seven days a week, and you can either walk in during business hours or call ahead at (209) 664-1550 for a same-day appointment.

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