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Wicked Wet Willies

Jul 14, 2016, 12:12 PM
Otitis externa—Mother Nature’s painful wet willy—is commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear. Swimmers typically spend a significant amount of time in the water, allowing ample opportunity for water to become entrapped in the ear canal, hence the common name swimmer’s ear. 

No, you don’t have to swim in a pool, or even be near a pool, to get swimmer’s ear. Water can become stuck in the ear canals during a bath, shower, or even bobbing for apples. Heat increases the growing rate for bacteria, causing a spike in ear infections during the summer months. Warm, wet ear canals are prime breeding real estate for bacteria, resulting in a painful infection within the outer ear canal.

grmc swimmers earAnyone who has suffered from swimmer’s ear is all too familiar with its irritating symptoms including:
• Itchiness
• Swelling
• Sound of liquid in ear
• Pain when ear is touched
• Muffled hearing
 • Pus draining from ear

Fear not, there are numerous ways to avoid falling victim to the villainous swimmer’s ear.  If your ears have been exposed to water, the CDC suggests the following techniques to expel any retained water from the ears.
• Thoroughly dry ears with a towel
• Turn your head so your ear is facing down and tug on your earlobe
• Hold a hair dryer a few inches away on the lowest setting and blow into your ear

Remember to avoid sticking anything into your ears, such as your finger or a q-tip; it can damage the ear canal, or potentially burst an ear drum.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in either or both of your ears, please go to the Manatt Family Urgent Care center or your primary care provider.  If ear aches or discomfort continues,   contact GRMC’s visiting Otolaryngologists—ear, nose, and throat specialists—at 1-800-642-6217 to set up an appointment.  

To learn more about swimmer’s ear, check out the CDC’s Swimmer’s Ear Fact Sheet at:

Written by Nick Moorehead, GRMC Summer Intern