Swimmer’s Ear and Treatment for Adults and Children

What is otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, and how can it be treated in adults and children? The experts from Otinova explain

• What is otitis externa and what causes it?
Otitis Externa or swimmer’s ear is inflammation of the ear canal normally due to repeated exposure to water. A humid environment in the ear can disrupt natural wax production. The breakdown of this natural, protective wax results in skin breakages and dryness that bacteria and fungus can thrive in. A consequence of this may be inflammation and infection. Problems with inflammation of the ear canal can also occur due to prolonged use of headphones, hearing aids and ear plugs.

• How can I recognise the symptoms in children?
Swimmer’s ear will often result in ear pain which can worsen when pulling on the ear and there is often itchiness in the ear canal. The outer ear and ear canal may appear red and swollen and sometimes fluids may leak from the ears. A degree of temporary hearing loss can occur due to the fluid build-up. Skin irritation and scaly skin around the ear might also be seen and it is generally an unpleasant and painful condition.

• How can a GP help?
A GP can look at the ear and decide on whether the patient has otitis externa. Antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed but generally self-care for swimmer’s ear is the preferred option. Otinova is listed by brand name in the NICE prescribing guidelines for treatment of otitis externa and is available with or without a prescription, from a pharmacist or online.

• Does otitis externa ever cure itself?
It is possible that if the sufferer is not exposed to the source of their otitis externa ie swimming pool, headphones, ear plugs then the natural protective wax in the ear may return to it’s natural state. However, we would strongly advise against leaving any ear problems unchecked or untreated, especially if they are causing pain and discomfort.

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