Baptist Health offers tips to avoid swimmer's ear

Swimming is a great way to exercise and cool off during the heat and humidity in Arkansas. But one thing to look out for is the uncomfortable swimmer's ear.

Dr. Shelly Perrin from Baptist Health in Arkadelphia stopped by the KATV studios to give tips on how to avoid external otitis or swimmer's ear. It occurs when the ear canals become irritated from infection, allergy, or skin problem.

"The water softens the earwax. The earwax protects the skin of the outer ear. The water softens it and you can get infection in the ear," Dr. Perrin says. "People confuse that with a regular ear infection. That's behind the ear drum. This is behind the ear canal where the skin gets very sensitive so it really hurts when you pull on the ear. There may be drainage or you have difficult hearing because it swells."

Excessive cleaning or scratching can injure the skin inside the canal and lead to infection. Swimming on a regular basis removes some of the ear wax and softens the skin inside the ear canal which can allow the bacteria living inside the canal to enter the skin. Wearing devices that block the ear canals such as hearing aids or ear plugs can lead to external otitis.

Some of the symptoms include pain in the outer ear, especially when the ear is pulled or moved, itchiness of the ear, fluid leaking from the ear and difficulty hearing clearly.

Drops reduce pain and eliminate infection. "You should avoid swimming for seven to ten days after you start the drops," Dr. Perrin said. "Even if you're getting into the shower you need to soak the cotton ball with petroleum jelly so that you won't get the outer ear wet."

To prevent swimmers ear Dr. Perrin says the old saying, "Don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear" to clean the ear is true. Shake your ears dry after swimming. Blow dry your ears on a low setting, holding the dryer 12 inches away. Use ear drops containing 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 alcohol after swimming to prevent swimmer's ear. Consider wearing ear plugs made for swimming.