By Banner Health

Summertime is here, and the hot weather is encouraging more of us back into the water but getting back into the swimming pool or lake can also increase our chances of getting swimmer’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal caused by bacteria or a virus. With clinics in metro Phoenix and Tucson, Banner Urgent Care treats many people who develop this common summertime infection.

“Children, teens and often adults present with a mild irritation to the outer ear canal so sometimes it is going to be itchy, sometimes, a little bit painful and sometimes, it will have new drainage coming out,’’ said Devin Minior (pronounced minor), MD, physician executive at Banner Urgent Care.

Left untreated, swimmer’s ear can develop into a fever, or radiating pain to the face or to the neck. People may need to be prescribed oral antibiotics as well as ear drops to treat advanced stages of swimmer’s ear, Minior said.

Minior gives other tips on how to prevent this hot-weather condition:

  • Gentle does it: “After you are done swimming or been in the shower or bathing, just try to clear out the ear canal very gently. Or you can actually apply acetic acid or rubbing alcohol to the ear canal and that will actually dry it out.’’
  • Avoid swabbing: “We typically recommend not clearing out the ear canal with a cotton swab just because it can cause small abrasions in the ear canal which can actually lead to ear infections.’’
  • Earplugs? “If you are trying to prevent water from getting into the ear canal and earplugs are effective at that, great. For some people, because of their anatomy, they just don’t work well, and they still get water in their ear.’’
  • Keep it clean: “In a well-maintained pool, the likelihood of getting an infection is much lower. But if you are swimming in a lake, you are at much higher risk (of swimmer’s ear).’’