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Swimmer's ear
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Swimmer's ear

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Infection of the lining to the ear canal is a condition known as otitis
externa or `swimmer`s ear`.
Swimmer's ear is an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal. It can be associated with middle ear infection (otitis media) or an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold. Excess moisture inside your ear caused by these common infections can make your outer ear susceptible to infection as well.

Prevention

Follow these tips to avoid swimmer's ear:

  • Dry your ears thoroughly after exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing. Dry only your outer ear slowly and gently with a soft towel or cloth. Never insert your finger or any other object into your ear.

  • Avoid swimming in polluted water.

  • Use earplugs when swimming.

  • Mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part alcohol to make an effective eardrop to use before and after swimming. Pour 1 teaspoon of the solution into each ear and let it drain back out. This mixture may help prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that can cause swimmer's ear.

  • Use oil or lanolin eardrops in your ears before swimming to prevent the effects of water.

  • Never attempt to dig out excess or hardened earwax with items such as a cotton swab, paper clip or hairpin. Using these items can pack material deeper into your ear canal and irritate the thin skin inside your ear.

  • Avoid substances that may irritate your ear, such as hair sprays and hair dyes. Put cotton balls in your ears when applying these products.

  • If you already have an ear infection or have recently had ear surgery, consult your doctor before you swim.

Self-care

If the aching is mild and there's no drainage from your ear, try these steps:

  • Place a warm (not hot) heating pad over or against your ear to help reduce pain.

  • Keep your ear dry while it's healing. Use earplugs when showering or bathing.

  • Refrain from swimming and cleaning your ears until the infection is gone.

Swimmer's ear  > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:22 AM