The fun of a cool splash in the pool can be spoiled by pain in the ears after swimming. Although it is common in swimmers, exposure to moisture for long periods or swimming in polluted water can also lead to this condition.
The main reason behind inner ear pain after swimming is growth of bacteria and fungus in the ear canal. Sometimes, while swimming, some amount of water may enter the ear and get trapped there for days. This provides a perfect breeding ground for certain strains of bacteria and fungus. Swimmer’s ear, also known as external otitis or otitis externa (medical terms), is common amongst those who spend really long hours in water, especially in polluted waters of ponds, lakes, or rivers.
Even those swimming for long hours in swimming pools develop such infections. The chlorine in the water of swimming pools makes it easier for the causative micro-organisms to invade the skin of the ear canal. Although generally associated with large water bodies, external otitis can be caused due to the water of the shower as well. Besides swimming, cleaning one’s ear with sharp objects, like hair clips and bobby pins may also cause otitis externa, as it makes it easier for the bacteria and fungus to enter through the broken skin of the ear canal.
The common symptoms of external otitis are given below:
- Pain in the ear when the pinna is touched or pulled.
- In many cases, earache starts after one experiences an itching sensation in the ear canal.
- The external ear may swell or become red.
- Lymph nodes around the ear may enlarge.
- Hearing loss can manifest in the affected ear.
- The ear canal may swell and may be accompanied by a greenish discharge of pus from the ear.
- In some cases, the person may also suffer from fever.
Some Preventive Measures
➜ Swimmer’s ear can be prevented by drying the ear carefully after every swim. However, in case you can’t get the water out of your ear, then put a few drops of alcohol-based ear drops in each ear.
➜ One can also use white distilled vinegar or alcohol or mix equal amounts of the two liquids and put a few drops of the solution after every swim.
➜ Consult a doctor before putting any ear drop to either prevent or treat swimmer’s ear. Alcohol and vinegar prevent swimmer’s ear by assisting in drying the water in the ear canal. They also break the water tension in the ear so that it runs out of the canal. Their usage also creates a slightly acidic pH in the ear canal that prevents the growth of bacteria or fungus.
➜ An individual who is already suffering from severe ear pain should refrain from the application of alcohol or alcohol-based products, as it may increase the pain.
➜ Ear plugs can also be used, though these are not very effective in relieving the pain. Lastly, one should strictly avoid swimming in polluted waters.
If you suspect that you have otitis externa, see a doctor to get relieved at the earliest. The doctor usually prescribes a ear drop that needs to be administered a couple of times daily for about a week. These ear drops contain antibiotics or corticosteroids. In case of severe ear infection, the oral intake of antibiotics, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be suggested.
Swimming is an activity that can’t be resisted in summers, and this is the time when people usually develop external otitis. If you acquire this problem, then it is advisable to keep the ears dry for about a week or 10 days by not swimming. This is because it is better to wait than suffer from another episode of ear pain.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.