Swimmer’s Ear Misconceptions and Skewed Seasonal Expectations
With a name like swimmer’s ear there can be some misconceptions behind the virus’ predominant victims. While cases do spike in the summer months of abundant swimming activities, this pesky outer ear infection can transcend seasons. Children and young adults with seasonal allergies and narrower ear canals are especially prone to year round contraction risks. With the name’s danger of seasonal dismissal, it’s important to stay ready all year to prevent an escalation of symptoms and long term hearing damage.
As the name implies, swimmer’s ear is primarily caused by excess water and moisture trapped in the eardrum. This lingering dampness provides thriving conditions for bacteria to lodge and flourish. However, contrary to the infection’s name, swimming isn’t the only aqua activity that can spur an infection. Lengthy showers, baths, hair care sessions and extra time spent in humid environments can trigger bacterial development.
These circumstantial factors can be enhanced through extensive use of ear cleaning products and regular use of hair dye or hair spray. Preexisting skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis may also increase chances of contraction candidacy. Furthermore, ear plugs, earphones and hearing aids can also increase infection likelihood as bacteria are further packed and trapped.
The first indicator of infection usually manifests as increased itchiness inside the ear. As this seemingly innocuous itch progresses to pain, swimmer’s ear quickly escalates its irritation intensity. Sensitivity of the outer ear region upon touching or tugging can provide decisive insight into the ear infection’s classification.
Formally known as Otitis Externa, the infection’s main distinction from more common middle ear infections is its location in the external ear canal. This makes swimmer’s ear easier to observe with swelling, redness and inflammation occurring near the visible canals. Additional distinctions can be identified through symptom comparisons with the more common middle ear infections.
Both swimmer’s ear and middle ear infections share crossover symptoms with sleep disruptive ear pain, fluid drainage and hearing difficulties. However, there are some variations that can help delineate the diseases. Swimmer’s ear is often more painful during the beginning stages of symptom development. Initial itchiness and an absence of a preliminary cold or progressive fever also separates swimmer’s ear as a less severe sickness.
Prevention and Treatment
Classified as a mild infection, the swimmer’s ear silver lining is in its usually quick recovery time when treated promptly. First and foremost, seeking physician consultation is the recommended course of action to confirm symptom suspicions and secure an accurate diagnosis. Once identified, swimmer’s ear can be effectively treated with prescription ear drops and over-the-counter pain medication to ease discomfort. With proper attention and follow through, symptoms can subside within days or a week’s span.
Some basic preventative measure can be accomplished with a conscious focus on keeping the ears dry. A tilt of the head after a shower or swim allows for water to drain and for bacteria to escape the eardrum. Cotton swabs and Q-Tips are ill advised, with improper usage leading to packed earwax and plugged ears for bacterial growth.
Editor: Dean Sekol