Questions and answers about swimmer's ear

It’s nice outside, it's hot, and it’s great weather for swimming. Swimming can sometimes cause some inconveniences, such as swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa.

What is swimmer’s ear?

It is an infection of the outer part of the ear. The cause may be of bacterial or fungal origin (fungus). Although often very painful, swimmer's ear is usually not very serious.

What are the symptoms?

You can feel a lot of pain in your ear. Itching, tenderness, redness, swelling or even a discharge may accompany this pain.

What are the causes?

When swimming, water may infiltrate and remain in the ear canal. This water may contain bacteria or fungi. These can then multiply and cause an infection. Swimming in polluted water is a risk factor and may lead to otitis externa. Also, external ear canal lesions (such as those caused by the use of cotton swabs (Q-Tips)) can make the environment conducive to infection.

How do you treat swimmer’s ear?

Otitis externa is treated with topical treatment. Eardrops are available without a prescription from your pharmacist. You can also take an analgesic or anti-inflammatory to relieve pain. Ask your pharmacist so they can suggest the right product. During treatment, it is best to prevent water from entering the ears again. If the pain persists despite the treatment suggested by your pharmacist, it is recommended to consult a doctor.

How do you prevent swimmer’s ear?

To reduce the risk of developing otitis externa, it is recommended to swim in clean water with controlled chlorine and pH levels. You should also avoid introducing objects into the ear (such as cotton swabs). Wearing a waterproof cap when swimming is a good method of prevention. Lastly, drying your ears after swimming, bathing or showering is also a good method of prevention.

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