How to Treat Swimmer's Ear

AFC Urgent Care Danbury physician Dr. Evangeline Specht tells us how to treat swimmer’s ear.
It’s summer, the kids are swimming, and we have been seeing a lot of people coming into our urgent care centers with ear aches . The big question parents usually ask is ‘Is it swimmer’s ear or an ear infection’.
Lets differentiate the two because symptoms can overlap.

What’s the difference between a middle ear infection and swimmer’s ear?

A typical middle ear infection is usually preceded by a cold or an upper respiratory infection. It can be bacterial or it can be viral.

What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection along the lining of the ear, from the eardrum to the outer ear. It is not caused by an upper respiratory infection, rather it generates from fluid gathering in the outer ear,often by swimming in waters with high bacteria counts.

What are the symptoms of swimmer’s ear?

There can be mild, moderate and severe symptoms.
Mild symptoms include itching, pain from pulling or pushing on the infected ear, which you will NOT have with a middle ear infection.
Sometimes there is drainage from the ear, or have the feeling that the ear is clogged.
Severe symptoms of swimmer’s ear may include swelling of the ear, pain extending into your neck, a high fever, tender lymph nodes, and possibly a discharge. If you are having any of these severe swimmers ear symptoms you should go directly to the ER.

Swimmer’s ear treatment

How do we treat swimmer’s ear?
First we will examine your ear to ensure that the ear drum is intact. If there is any debris we try and remove that, carefully, as the ear can be highly sensitive. 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.
How to care for swimmer’s ear while healing:

  • put the eardrops in with ear facing up
  • do not swim during treatment
  • do not use earplugs
  • do not fly during treatment
  • when bathing use a cotton ball with petroleum jelly on it

How to prevent swimmer’s ear:

Wouldn’t it just be better to prevent swimmer’s ear altogether? It can be difficult to avoid sometimes, especially if your child is taking swim lessons, or loves to swim on a daily basis, but there are some prevention tips you can use to avoid swimmer’s ear. They include :

  • try to avoid swimming in waters with high bacteria counts
  • avoid putting any sharp objects deep in to the ear canal, including Q-tips
  • do not use ear plugs, especially for an extended period of time
  • and when coming out of the water try and get rid of any water by tilting head ( it can sometimes help to hop up and down).

There are some home remedies you can use if you have a swimmer to help avoid infection, or if you feel an infection is on its’ way, the most popular being 1 part white vinegar and 1 part alcohol to help keep the ear canal clean, but we recommend that you only use that if you are sure that your ear drum is intact and not ruptured.
If you are having any of these symptoms visit us here at AFC Urgent Care, open 7 days a week, no appointment necessary.
Save time, check in online:
2 Main Street   100 Mill Plain Road
This has been an AFC Urgent Care Danbury Medical Minute