You know that annoying moment when you’re having a fun day at the pool and you jump out only to find that you have water stuck in your ear? You awkwardly shake your head around and whack your ear from the other side to get the water out, but no luck. Not only can the trapped water be uncomfortable, but it could also cause swimmer’s ear.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimmer’s ear is an infection that “can occur when water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time, providing the perfect environment for germs to grow and infect the skin.”
The germs found in public pools are common causes of swimmer’s ear, but it can also be caused from small cuts and abrasions that damage the thin lining of the ear canal. Putting things like cotton swabs, fingers, headphones and other small items in your ears can cause small breaks in the skin that provide the perfect places for bacteria to grow.
To treat swimmer’s ear, the most common remedy is to use ear drops to help dry up any remaining water and alleviate discomfort. Speak with your doctor to make sure ear drops are right for you or if you show symptoms of ear pain, discomfort or drainage from your ears, according to the CDC.
However, prevention is the best tactic when it comes to this infection. Whenever swimming try to use ear plugs or a bathing cap to keep your ears as dry as possible. When getting out of the water, dry your ears thoroughly and try to get any water out without pulling or pushing on the outside of your ear. According to the Mayo Clinic, pulling and pushing the outside of your ear can actually make the discomfort even worse.
Swimmer’s ear is not the end of the world, but it can be a less than fun way to spend your summer. So, be alert as to where you and your family are swimming, keep your ears dry, and minimize the amount of items, jewelry and hair products you put near your ears.