Swimmer's Ear, medically known as Otitis Externa or Acute External Otitis, can be described as a bacterial infection that occurs in the outer ear canal. This is the canal that runs between your eardrum and the outside of your head.
The infection is likely to occur after swimming, as water that remains in your ears creates a moist environment, ideal for bacterial growth. You could also get swimmer's ear if the thin layer of skin that lines your ear canal gets damaged by a ear bud or a cotton swab.
Swimmer's ear is not a serious infection and can be treated quite easily with the right medication. In most cases, prompt treatment prevents serious infections and complications from developing. However, if the condition is left unchecked and untreated, it could result in complications such as:
Therefore, though swimmer's ear is not a serious health problem, it should be treated by a doctor as soon as it occurs.
The symptoms for swimmer's ear may vary, depending upon the stage of the condition. In the initial stages, the symptoms are quite mild, but they may worsen significantly, as the infection goes untreated.
Mild Symptoms Initial Stage
Moderate Symptoms Progressed Stage
Severe Symptoms Advanced Stage
It is best for you to consult a doctor as soon as you notice even the milder symptoms of swimmer's ear. Seek emergency medical attention in case you experience severe ear pain accompanied by hearing loss or fever.
Swimmer's ear is usually caused by bacteria found in soil and water. Though rare, at times this infection could also occur because of a fungus or a virus.
Your outer ear canals have natural defenses that keep the ears clean and prevent any infections. If these defenses are weakened for some reason, bacteria could enter your ears and cause an infection. Some of the factors that can cause your ears defenses to weaken include:
Some of the factors that could increase your risks of developing swimmer's ear include:
This shows that you dont have to be a swimmer, to suffer from swimmer's ear. In many cases, doctors cannot determine the exact factors that have lead to swimmer's ear.
It is important that you seek medical treatment as soon as you notice the symptoms of swimmer's ear. The treatment is mainly aimed at cleaning out the inner ear canal, so that the ear can heal properly. There are several eardrops and medicines that can help treat otitis externa. Depending upon the type and severity of your infection, your doctor may prescribe a combination of:
However, while these cures destroy the infection-causing bacteria, they may not get rid of the pain and discomfort. Your doctor may advise you to take over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen for pain relief.
You could also try natural remedies to relieve the symptoms of swimmer's ear and speed up the healing process. Given below are some of the most highly recommended home remedies for swimmer's ear:
While these natural remedies can help alleviate the symptoms of otitis externa, they do not cure the infection and therefore cannot be used as a substitute for medical treatment. It is also advisable to check with a doctor before you try any of them.
There is no specific diet that you need to follow while undergoing treatment for swimmer's ear. You can continue with your regular diet, as there are no foods that aggravate or alleviate the symptoms of swimmer's ears.
However, a diet that is high in vitamins, minerals, protein and other essential nutrients makes it easier for your body to fight off infection causing bacteria. Therefore, it is best for you to follow a balanced diet, which contains the daily recommended amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, dairy products, lean meat, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin C helps your body combat bacterial infections and therefore, you should increase your consumption of oranges, lemons, strawberries, papayas, kiwis, guavas, tomatoes, bell peppers (yellow), leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and certain fresh herbs.
While undergoing treatment for any condition, it is best to avoid alcohol, junk food and greasy food as they could delay the healing process. Do make it a point to check with your doctor, before making any major changes to your diet.
While undergoing treatment for swimmer's ear, it is important that you keep your ears dry at all times. Therefore, put a small piece of cotton coated with petroleum jelly in each ear, before you go in for a shower. This will keep the water from getting into your ear. Some of the activities that you should avoid when you have swimmer's ear include:
Do not panic if some water does get into your ear while you are swimming or bathing. Instead, pat the outer ear area dry immediately using a soft towel. Tip your head on to the side, to drain the water from the ear canal. You could also dry your ears with a blow-dryer by putting it on the lowest setting and keeping the dryer at least a foot away (0.30 meters) from your ear.
Though swimmer's ear is not a serious problem, make sure that you do not treat the condition lightly. Speak to your doctor as soon as you experience itchiness or pain in the ear.