Swimmer’s ear caused by more than swimming

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Though acute otitis externa is often called “swimmer’s ear,” not everyone who jumps into the pool or lake this summer will get the infection.

“Typically, swimming isn’t a problem,” said Dr. Gregory H. Esselman with Aiken Ear Nose and Throat.

The phrase “swimmer’s ear” refers to a “swelling and pain in the skin of the ear canal,” he continued.

The ear canal is “the narrow, tubelike passage through which sound enters the ear,” according to The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary.

“A common source of the infection is increased moisture trapped in the ear canal, from baths, showers, swimming or moist environments. When water is trapped in the ear canal, bacteria that normally inhabit the skin and ear canal multiply, causing infection of the ear canal,” as stated by the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

Other factors that the American Academy of Otolaryngology lists that could cause the infection include “excessive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs or anything else,” “contact with certain chemicals such as hair spray or hair dye” or “a cut in the skin of the ear canal.”

Esselman also recommends avoid “cleaning the wax out of your ear,” as the wax can help ward off infection.

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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