Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of
the external ear canal. This is an infection frequently seen
in swimmers, as well as SCUBA divers. It is NOT associated
with water quality or bacteria in the water, but is related
to water retention in the external ear, creating a warm, moist
environment for bacterial growth and subsequent infections.
It can be very painful. Because of the swelling, the outer
ear is very tender to palpation or touch.
Swimmer's Ear Prevention
The goal after engaging in water activities is to dry the
external ear. This can by performed in a variety of ways.
It is usually not advisable to use a cotton-tipped applicator
as that plugs the ear even more. Using a twisted up tissue
to dry up the water, or using a hairdryer may be beneficial
to dry the fluid in the ear after swimming.
Swimmer's Ear Treatment
Healthcare Provider - Medical Treatment
For the healthcare provider, the most
common bacterial pathogen responsible for infection is P.
Aeruginosa as well as S. Aureus. Frequently an infection is
poly-microbial, and there are multiple organisms involved.
These are the most common. The most common antimicrobial medical
that is used is Cortisporin Otic, 4 drops 4x/day, for 5-7
days, and avoid swimming. This is very helpful. Many times
I have used ear-wicks, which is very helpful in keeping the
medication in place, or you can use cotton to prevent the
medication from dripping out of the ear.
Ciprodex by Alcon is also beneficial. It
helps with compliance, as dosage is only 4 drops 2x/day. Also,
it is not toxic to the middle ear, especially in the case
of a rupture. It is a very helpful medication in the treatment
of swimmer’s ear, combined with Barotrauma, where there
may be a perforated tympanic membrane.