August is a popular time for vacationing, and unfortunately, also swimmer’s ear time. As bacteria counts grow in the warm weather, PH counts often change, and chances of  ear infection, especially swimmer’s ear, increase.

Recently, at AFC Urgent Care Bronx  we have been seeing many parents bringing their children into our urgent care center holding their ears and with ear aches and asking the question ‘Is it swimmer’s ear or an ear infection?’

Symptoms can overlap. Here’s the difference.

The difference between a middle ear infection and swimmer’s ear

Middle ear infections are usually preceded by a cold or an upper respiratory infection. They can be bacterial or they can present as  viral.

An ear infection is due to swelling in the middle ear cavity. This swelling is caused by a blocked Eustachian tube (the tube that links the middle ear with the throat) and is usually part of a common cold. Fluid builds up and allows bacteria and viruses to grow. They are most common in children between the ages of 6 months-2 years, but can continue up until the child is about 8 years of age.



What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection or infection which occurs along the lining of the ear, along the ear canal to the outer ear.  It is caused by fluid gathering in the outer ear,usually by swimming in waters with high bacteria counts.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear:

There are varying degrees of swimmer’s ear.
Mild symptoms usually include itching, pain from pulling or pushing on the tab of tissue in front infected ear, which does not occur with a middle ear infection.
There can  be drainage from the ear, or the feeling that the ear is clogged.
Severe symptoms of swimmer’s ear often include swelling of the ear, pain extending into your neck, a high fever, tender lymph nodes, and possibly a  pussy discharge, often times with an odor. If you are experiencing any of these severe swimmers ear symptoms you should go directly to the ER to be treated.

Swimmer’s ear treatment

How do we treat swimmer’s ear?
First we will examine your ear to ensure that the ear drum is intact. If there is any debris we try and remove that, carefully, as the ear can be highly sensitive. We will prescribe antibiotic ear drops, to be used 2-3 times per day for 7 days, and we’ll talk to you about caring for your swimmer’s ear while your ear heals.

Tips for caring for swimmer’s ear while healing:

  • put the eardrops in with ear facing up
  • do not swim during treatment
  • do not use earplugs
  • do not fly during treatment
  • when bathing use a cotton ball with petroleum jelly on it
  • apply warm heat to ear using a warm dry towel, or a heating pad on a low setting
  • use either ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed

How to prevent swimmer’s ear:

Wouldn’t it just be better to prevent swimmer’s ear altogether? It can be difficult to avoid sometimes, especially if your child is taking swim lessons, or loves to swim on a daily basis, but there are some prevention tips you can use to avoid swimmer’s ear. They include :

  • try to avoid swimming in waters with high bacteria counts
  • avoid putting any sharp objects deep in to the ear canal, including Q-tips
  • do not use ear plugs, especially for an extended period of time
  • and when coming out of the water try and get rid of any water by tilting head ( it can sometimes help to hop up and down). If you are near a blow dryer, drying the ear on a low setting can help

Don’t let swimmer’s ear ruin the rest of your summer. If you are having any of these symptoms visit us here at AFC Urgent Care Bronx, open 7 days a week, no appointment necessary. 843 Hutchinson River Parkway, Bronx.

Call us: (718) 925-4420

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