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Swimming and Ear Infections

With swimming season in full swing, a rise in doctor’s visits for ear infections follows. There is a significant difference between swimmer’s ear and ear infections. Knowing the signs can help you and your child be better prepared when the ear tugging and pain starts.

Swimmer’s ear occurs when excess moisture is inside the ear canal for too long, allowing bacteria to multiply leading to infection. Although it’s most common in children, swimmer’s ear can happen to anyone spending time in the water this summer. This infection is usually painful and can last for up to 7-10 days. There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of developing swimmer’s ear:

  • Don’t clean ear canals with cotton swabs
  • Dry outer ears gently with a towel after swimming
  • Keep ears as dry as possible
  • Use ear plugs when swimming

Swimmer’s ear is not a contagious condition. It is inflammation or infection caused by bacteria commonly found in water sources such as pools, lakes, and oceans. The moisture that remains in the ear canal after swimming can weaken the ear’s natural defenses, allowing bacteria to multiply and cause inflammation. This inflammation leads to the characteristics associated with swimmer’s ear.

If you aren’t sure what to look for, here are some of the most common symptoms of swimmer’s ear:

  • Feeling “plugged up” or full in the ear
  • Fever
  • Hearing Loss
  • Itchiness or pain in the ear
  • Outer ear redness
  • Yellow-green pus, may have a smell

It’s important to catch swimmer’s ear as early as possible to avoid any further complications or issues. If the moisture in the ear is left untreated, it can lead to serious health implications, including:

  • Bone and cartilage damage
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Spread of infection to nearby tissues
  • Temporary hearing loss

If you suspect that you or someone in your family has swimmer’s ear, don’t wait to reach out to a healthcare provider. Prompt discovery and diagnosis can relieve symptoms and promote quicker recovery. Be proactive in keeping your ears healthy this summer, and protect them during water activities to enjoy a safe swimming season.

If you have concerns about swimmer’s ear, make an appointment with a healthcare provider today. Or seek care at an Urgent Care if your child is in pain.

If you don’t know how to spot the difference between swimmer’s ear and infections, there are a few key signs to look out for. An ear infection is caused by swelling the middle ear cavity, and usually caused by a cold as fluid builds up and allows bacteria and viruses to grow. Ear infections in children occur most often between 6 month and two years old for children but can common until 8 years old.

It’s important to note that while swimmer’s ear can often be managed with over-the-counter treatments and preventive measures (like keeping ears dry), ear infections may require antibiotics if bacterial, or supportive care if viral. Always consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment for an ear infection may include pain medication, applying a cold pack to the outer ear for 20 minutes, or analgesic ear drops and antibiotics (by mouth or ear drops). Not all children older than age 2 will need an antibiotic for an ear infection. After examining your child, the doctor will be able to figure out the best plan. Symptoms of an inner ear infection include:

  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Rapid involuntary eye movement

Urgent Care is the place for minor conditions, such as earaches, sore throats and urinary tract infections. Think of Urgent Care as your doctor’s office when your doctor’s office is closed.

No referrals or appointments are needed to be seen by Southwest Health’s team of Advanced Practice Practitioners who cover Urgent Care. Patients are evaluated in the Triage Room adjacent to the Emergency Department. If more than basic lab work or X-rays are done, the visit is automatically elevated to an Emergency Department visit. All ages are welcome. You don’t need to be a Southwest Health patient.

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