Q: Please tell me about swimmer?s ear and how long it takes to get rid of that watery feeling?
A: Swimmer?s ear is called otitis externa. Otitis means inflammation or infection of the ear and externa refers to the ear canal, which is the outer ear. So swimmer?s ear is an infection of the outer ear. The kind of infection that can plague young children is usually otitis media, a middle-ear infection.
It?s known as swimmer?s ear because swimmers may get it when they?re in the water for a long time and water gets in their ears. People who take frequent and long showers can also develop swimmer?s ear. It?s also possible to get it when certain kinds of cosmetics get into the ear.
Otitis externa can be very painful. It may also cause itching and discharge, sometimes with a foul smell. There may be that watery feeling, a sensation of fullness, temporary hearing impairment and pain, redness and swelling on the outside portion of the ear.
Swimmer?s ear may clear up without any treatment, but I wouldn?t let it go more than a couple of days because the infection can spread. The doctor may need to clean out the wax and debris that have built up in the ear. This is a bacterial infection, so antibiotic eardrops are often prescribed. The drops may also contain corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
You can take precautions to prevent swimmer?s ear. Making sure the ears dry out after swimming or bathing should stop the formation of pools of liquid where bacteria can breed. Earplugs can help keep the water out while you?re immersed. Afterwards, dry the ears gently with a towel or cloth.
Your doctor may also recommend commercial drops or tell you how to make your own. Used after swimming or bathing, these drops help the ear dry more quickly. People who are prone to swimmer?s ear should make these practices a part of their routine.