Swimmer's ear is an ear condition which is caused by irritation to the ear, allowing organisms such as bacteria and fungi to colonize it. There are a number of ways to treat swimmer's ear infection, ranging from preventative measures to ear drops. It is better to prevent the condition, if possible, since it can lead to more serious infections or hearing damage. If you suspect a case of swimmer's ear, it is important to go to a doctor, since bacterial and fungal infections require different treatments. A doctor can also prescribe more potent medications and painkillers to treat swimmer's ear.
You may have heard swimmer's ear called “jungle ear,” a reference to the moist, humid conditions with promote the infection. It is also formally known as otix externa, since it represents an infection of the external part of the ear canal. Swimmer's ear is characterized by extreme pain and a swollen, reddish ear canal. Tugging or scratching at the ear can make it worse, so try to avoid contact with the site of the infection, if possible. When you treat swimmer's ear, remember that your ear is vulnerable to the spread of infection.
The best way to treat swimmer's ear is to prevent it. Start by keeping your ears clean and dry. Make sure to rinse thoroughly with warm water after any aquatic activity, removing dirt, soap residue, and other sources of infection. You can use drying drops to dry your ears out quickly, or you can rinse your ears with a half vinegar/half alcohol solution to dry them out and create an acidic environment in which infections will not thrive.
Avoid scratching or picking at your ears, as this can create small cuts, making your ear vulnerable to infection. If your ears become too dry, as can happen when you swim a lot, use a dab of baby oil in your ears before swimming to create a layer of moisture so that bacteria cannot penetrate. You may also apply baby oil before sleeping, or hydrocortisone cream if your ears become dry and itchy.
Once an infection sets in, antibacterial drugs can be used to treat swimmer's ear. Typically, drugs take the form of ear drops, which treat the infection directly. A doctor may also suggest taking anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers to reduce inflammation and resulting pain; warm washcloths pressed gently on the ear can help with this as well. In addition, vinegar rinses can help to create an acidic environment which is hostile to bacteria. If the infection is fungal in nature, an anti-fungal drug will be prescribed.