How to Treat Swimmer’s Ear at Home and When to Seek Care

Few things make it harder to go about your day than an earache. They not only make it hard to focus, but can also lead to temporary hearing loss and annoying drainage. Unfortunately, activities that many people like to enjoy in the summertime, such as swimming, can make getting swimmers ear more likely.

The two most common types of earache are caused by otitis media (a middle ear infection) and otitis externa (swimmer’s ear). Although the terms swimmer’s ear and ear infection are often used interchangeably, they aren’t the same. They are the result of different problems and affect distinct parts of the ear.

Fortunately, many earaches, especially those caused by swimmer’s ear, can be treated at home. With that being said, let’s look at some of the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, how to treat them at home, and how to prevent this type of earache in the first place.

How Do You Get Swimmer’s Ear?

There’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in the pool or lake when the hottest months of summer roll around. However, if you don’t get all the water out of your ears after swimming, you might have something less fun to deal with.

When water gets trapped in your ear, it creates a warm, wet, and dark environment. This is an ideal place for bacteria to thrive. As time goes on, the bacteria in your ear canal can quickly multiply and turn into an infection that causes symptoms like ear pain, itching, and hearing loss.

As the name suggests, swimmer’s ear is common in those who spend a lot of time in the water. It is also more common in the summertime since more people are enjoying water-based activities.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

Those who have experienced swimmer’s ear know that it isn’t fun. While the primary symptom is a sharp, constant pain in your ear, there are a variety of other symptoms that can arise as well. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear may include:

  • Ear pain
  • Trouble hearing
  • Fluid discharge
  • Fever
  • Itching sensation in the ear
  • Difficulty sleeping

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

Although there is no way to completely prevent swimmer’s ear from happening (aside from not getting your ears wet), there are ways to decrease your likelihood of getting it.

One of the best ways is to wear earplugs when you plan on swimming. This is even more beneficial if you’ll be swimming in non-treated water, such as a lake or river, where bacteria is more prevalent.

After going for a swim, it’s also crucial to get all the water out of your ears. To do so, tip one side of your head down and gently shake. Repeat this on the other side to ensure that all the water drains out of your ear canals.

How to Treat Swimmer’s Ear at Home

Fortunately, most cases of swimmer’s ear are fairly mild. This means that most people can manage the symptoms at home without much difficulty.

Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Advil can help ease the pain of swimmer’s ear.

Many people also find relief by sleeping on the affected side. This can help excess water drain out of your ear and prevent the infection from getting worse.

What’s the Difference Between Swimmer’s Ear and an Ear Infection

As noted, swimmer’s ear and ear infections aren’t the same. Although they share many of the same symptoms, true ear infections are far less common.

When dealing with swimmer’s ear, the irritation is mainly in the ear canal. Most ear infections develop behind the eardrum. This can cause more severe pain, pressure in your ear, and more difficulty hearing. On top of this, ear infections often need to be treated with antibiotics while swimmer’s ear may go away on its own after a few days.

When to Seek Care for Swimmer’s Ear or an Ear Infection

Although many earaches can be managed at home, there are certain times when you should seek care. If left untreated, ear infections and swimmer’s ear can lead to permanent hearing loss, damage to the fragile structures in your ear, and can even develop into more serious infections.

If you have an earache that doesn’t respond to at-home treatments after a few days, it’s time to go see a doctor. You’ll likely be prescribed a course of antibiotics or ear drops to help fight the infection and prevent it from spreading.

Velocity Urgent Care Has Your Back

If you find yourself with a case of swimmer’s ear after having fun in the water this summer, Velocity Urgent Care has your back. Our team of friendly, board-certified providers will examine your ears to determine the cause of your earache.

From there, they can prescribe medications to help treat the infection and manage your symptoms in the meantime. With several Velocity Urgent Care locations across Virginia, convenient and effective care is always nearby.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking serious safety precautions to ensure that our locations are as clean as possible. We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure that each one of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or occupational health services.

Velocity Urgent Care offers convenient online registration that helps you limit your contact with others during a visit. You can sign up for an appointment online ahead of time and arrive when it’s time to be seen to skip the waiting room. We even offer text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible. All of our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome. To find out more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.