As soon as the summer arrives, one of the first activities most people do is hit the swimming pool or the beach. However, sometimes that first dive into the water can lead to a trip to UAB Medical West Otolaryngology at UAB UAB Medical West for swimmer’s ear. 

But, Michael J. Latshaw, MD, Otolaryngologist and ENT at UAB UAB Medical West, wants you to know that this doesn’t have to be a yearly occurrence if certain precautions are taken at the beginning of summer and throughout the season to help prevent swimmer’s ear.

What Is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear is an infection on the ear canal side of the ear. Since the ear is a good place for fungus and bacteria to grow when in the right environment, the condition seems to be more common in the summer when water is more likely to get (and stay) in the ear.

While the name “Swimmer’s Ear” gives off the impression that people who swim are the only ones who can suffer from the medical condition, this is not the case.

“It is called ‘swimmer’s ear’ because the condition is associated with being in the water,” explains Dr. Latshaw. “However, swimmer’s ear doesn’t occur only in the water. Even something as soft as a Q-tip going too far into the ear canal can cause an infection and lead to a diagnosis of swimmer’s ear.”

Symptoms associated with swimmer’s ear include:

  • Changes in hearing
  • Foul smell
  • Drainage
  • Pain (both inside and outside ear)
  • Possible fever
  • Swelling

Prevention Is Key but Treatment Can Be Necessary

While the best way to treat swimmer’s ear is prevention, sometimes the symptoms can still appear.

“By keeping your ears as dry as possible around water, you can help to reduce your chances of suffering from swimmer’s ear throughout the year,” Dr. Latshaw states. “In addition, using ear plugs while in the water and drying your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering with a towel or even a hair dryer can help you to prevent the condition. Alcohol-based ear drops can also help dissolve access water in the ear.”

Fortunately, if swimmer’s ear symptoms do appear, there are treatments available to help you find relief from ear pain sooner rather than later. Treatment for swimmer’s ear can include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-fungal medications
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, if needed for pain
  • Prescription for ear drops
  • Steroids

We Are Here for You

Swimmer’s ear is one of the most common conditions seen within the UAB Medical West Otolaryngology. Our qualified and experienced physician have all the equipment needed at our clinic. Therefore, we can help clean the ear and treat the condition and get patients back to enjoying their summer!

“While some home remedies can help treat swimmer’s ear, it is definitely a condition that should not go untreated,” Dr. Latshaw reminds. “If treatment isn’t received, swimmer’s ear can turn into a severe enough medical condition that leads to surgery or even hearing loss if permanent damage is caused to the ear drum. Therefore, it is important to seek medical condition if symptoms to not ease or fully go away after a few days.”

If your symptoms are not showing any relief after two to three days, it is time to schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist. Schedule an appointment today by contacting UAB Medical West Otolaryngology at (205) 481-8620 to seek medical attention for possible swimmer’s ear.