Swimmer’s ear and ear infections can be an unfortunate side effect to summer fun at the pool, or they can be linked to the flu and common cold – which means they can be a problem year-round.
Especially with children, it can be difficult to pinpoint if the source of discomfort is an ear canal infection, an inner ear problem, or even a ruptured eardrum, so we recommend a visit to your nearest NextCare Urgent Care for diagnosis and easy treatment. If you do have an ear infection, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more painful it can become.
Ear Infection and Swimmer’s Ear Causes
Swimmer’s ear is caused by excess moisture in the ear from swimming or even routine showering. The bacteria in the water find a hospitable home in the moist environment of an inflamed ear canal.
Ear infections can be caused by bacteria and viruses. Bacteria cause most ear infections, but viruses like the flu can also be linked to ear infections. During a cold, sinus or throat infection, or an allergy attack, the tubes which connect the middle ears to the throat can become blocked or constricted, which stops fluid from draining from the middle ear. This fluid is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria or viruses to grow into an ear infection.
- Earache (either a sharp, sudden pain or a dull, continuous pain, fullness or pressure)
- A sharp stabbing pain with immediate warm drainage from the ear canal
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Muffled hearing
- Ear drainage
- Tugging at the ear
- Poor sleep
- Irritability, restlessness
- Ear drainage
- Nasal discharge
- Diminished appetite
- Crying at night when lying down
In addition, nasal congestion or nausea may accompany or precede an ear infection, but are not necessarily symptoms of it.
To self-treat swimmer’s ear or a mild ear infection, you can gently rinse the ear canal out with warm saline solution or a solution made of half white vinegar and half warm water, which can help dry out the ear canal and target bacteria. To ease pain, you can apply a warm washcloth over the ear, and take NSAIDs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Severe infections can cause swelling throughout the ear canal, which can make self-treatment difficult or ineffective (credit diehl). If you’re experiencing pain, or self-treatment has been ineffective, you should visit your nearest urgent care, where a doctor can provide you with medication, such as antibiotic ear drops, to provide fast relief.
If you or your family member is experiencing severe swelling, significant hearing loss, dizziness, or trouble breathing, PLEASE CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY.