Driscoll ENT Specialist: How to prevent swimmer’s ear

Summertime means more swimming at pools and beaches. That, in turn, may mean more cases of swimmer’s ear, an infection often brought on by water remaining in the ear after swimming. Driscoll Health System’s Syboney Zapata, MD, is the only Fellowship-trained Pediatric Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist in South Texas. She offers more information on swimmer’s ear and how to prevent it. What causes swimmer’s ear? Dr. Zapata: Most cases of swimmer’s ear arise from bacterial infection that penetrates through the skin of the ear canal. What are the signs to watch for? Dr. Zapata: (Signs include) pain when you touch the outer part of the ear, swelling on the outer part of the ear, as well as drainage coming out of the ear canal. How is swimmer’s ear treated? Dr. Zapata: Swimmer’s ear is generally treated with a topical antibiotic ear drop and dry ear precautions. Can Swimmer’s Ear be prevented? Dr. Zapata: The best way to prevent swimmer’s ear infection is to maintain a dry ear after swimming. The easiest way to do that is with a hair dryer. Use it on a low setting, with cool temperature, hold it several inches away from the ear and dry your ear out after you’re done swimming for the day. There are also ear drops that you can buy at a general pharmacy or a grocery store. Those ear drops are alcohol-based ear drops and they act as drying agents for the ear. They are unsafe in certain patients – these would be patients who have a perforated eardrum or an ear tube in their eardrum, so to be on the safe side, the hair dryer is a very safe, simple and inexpensive way to prevent swimmer’s ear.