Who suffers from swimmers ear? It turns out not just swimmers. In fact, most of us who have had this infection probably did not have any contact with water whatsoever.

The ear canal, which naturally has wax or cerumen within, can easily be infected. After all, it is narrow, greasy and water as well as other liquids easily enter the canal. You would think that cleaning the canal is a good thing, but honestly shoving a dirty finger or a q tip down this narrow canal is definitely not a great idea. Why? Well, for one the Q tip can break off within the canal or rupture the tympanic membrane. Your finger, which is much thicker than the canal will tear the skin of the canal and cause further inflammation. So don’t put anything other than prescribed ear drops into your ear canals.

Treatment involves antibiotic and steroid combination liquids such as Corticosporin or acidifying solutions such as Volsol HC, which also contains steroid drops. If the infection involves the ear itself and is associated with redness and fever oral antibiotics will be prescribed as well.

Diabetics and other patients with conditions affecting the immune system need to be especially careful because these individuals are suseptible to malignant otitis external.  This condition can cause serious illness or even death.

The antibiotic drops should be placed in your ear canals as you lie on your side (perhaps checking out the latest tweet or text or whatever) and you should remain with that canal upward for about 5 minutes. You can then put a cotton ball over each  canal.

Swimming is not a good idea. You don’t want water with all the associated nasty bugs in your canal. If you have to swim, consider using a tightly fitting ear plug or a cotton ball with vaseline on the outside.  Dry your ears off right after you finish your swim and shake your head to get out the last bit of water from your ear canal.

Sometimes the canal will be so swollen that you simply cannot put the drops in there. A wic can then be placed by your doctor. The wic will expand, adsorb the excess liquid and thus reduce the inflammation. The wic should be removed in 3 days by your doctor.

Most cases of swimmers ear resolve without any problems, but sometimes the drum can rupture. Pus and perhaps blood will come out. You should see your doctor if this occurs.

Bottom line is this infection is common and a nuisance. Fortunately, it can be treated easily.