Why Swimmers Ear is the most common Summer ENT Health Problem and how to treat it

Our ears can be vulnerable in the summer, as this is the time of year when we are much more likely to spend time in water - and changes in air temperatures can have a big impact too. Swimmer’s Ear is one of the most common ENT health problems during the summer months, in adults and children. It’s something that can be incredibly uncomfortable but there are ways to prevent it, and to easily treat it too.

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

It’s an inflammatory condition that can affect anyone. Some of the most obvious symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear include ear pain, as well as discomfort around the ear and itching in the ear canal. Swimmer’s Ear is usually a bacterial infection that has been caused by water that has remained too long in the ear. This creates a moist environment in which it’s very easy for bacteria to grow and it’s this that triggers the infection. Many adults suffer with Swimmer’s Ear during the summer months, which is why it’s one of the most common summer ENT health problems - and it also affects children too.

How can you avoid Swimmer’s Ear?

One of the most common causes of Swimmer’s Ear is swimming in polluted water, such as rivers and the sea. It can also simply be caused by water remaining in the ears for too long. So, one of the easiest ways to tackle Swimmer’s Ear is to wear a swimming hat or ear plugs. It’s also important to make sure that ears are dried when you (or your child) leave the water - tilt the head from side to side and back and forth to let water escape. If you can still feel water in your ear then you could even use a hairdryer on the lowest setting. It’s very important that you don’t put anything in your ears - this can make the situation worse.

What about ear wax?

The function of ear wax is actually to protect the ears from infection but if it builds up, or isn’t functioning properly, it can be one of the reasons why water is not able to escape from the ears and an infection occurs. You can get your ears professionally cleaned to ensure this doesn’t happen but most of the time our ears are designed to function well without interference. So, there is no need to use cotton buds etc to try to remove ear wax - this can actually do more harm than good.

How is Swimmer’s Ear treated?

Swimmer’s Ear is usually a bacterial infection, which means that antibiotics can be used to clear it quickly. If the infection is fungal then antifungal agents can be used instead. When the infection is at its worst it may cause the eardrum to bulge. At this point you can ice the ear and use painkillers until the swelling goes down.

Swimmer’s Ear is one of the most common ENT problems during the summer months - but there are simple ways to prevent and treat it.

Harley Street is the UK's foremost private medical centre which is dedicated to providing high-quality care for your ear, nose, throat, head & neck, and balance-related disorders. Find out more information on how Harley Street ENT can help you here.

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The Harley Street ENT clinic in London can provide all of the care that you need when you have an ear, nose, throat or balance problem. We ensure that you can get all of the right tests, treatments and advice in one convenient place.