The heat and the holidays favor bathing in pools and beaches, but being a long time under water facilitates the appearance of the so-called swimmer’s ear.
With summer and high temperatures, a new routine begins: vacations, summer camps, the beach, etc., which help to cool off and take advantage of the practice of sports related to water. For a long time, external otitis has been more typical of tropical countries, however, with the increase in international travel and the practice of water sports, it has become a frequent consultation for otolaryngologists.
It is called “external” because the part of the ear that is affected is the External Auditory Conduit, which is the region through which the outside sound passes before reaching the middle ear or tympanic membrane (which vibrates with sound) and then passing to the inner ear.
It is an infection of the skin of the canal as a result of moisture, due to being immersed in water for a long time. The canal can be irritated and often the skin suffers from maceration, and bacteria can enter. It is necessary to note that the products used for the maintenance of the pools (chlorine, algaecides, decanters, etc.) are irritating to the skin, and cause micro-erosions that represent the door and entrance of bacteria. People with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis are more predisposed to having External Otitis. Although children and adults are just as likely to have otitis, it is more common in children because they tend to spend more time in the water.
It is not a serious pathology but it is annoying. The infection is characterized by intense pain of rapid onset (usually within 48 hours), local heat sensation and pain when chewing. The patient may also have hearing loss or having the ear covered. Sometimes suppuration of the ear.
What to do if the symptoms appear?
Before the appearance of any of the signs, it is convenient to visit the doctor. Many times the otolaryngologist, after looking with the otomicroscope, should aspirate the secretion and indicate the local treatment with drops, antipyretics, oral corticosteroids or antibiotics if necessary. It is recommended to avoid the entry of water into the affected ear for at least a week until receiving medical discharge.
There is a maneuver that can guide patients to know if it is external otitis before consulting the doctor. It is the Bachert maneuver or swallow sign that consists in squeezing or pressing the swallow of the auricle. It must be borne in mind that in the case of children, sometimes they do not allow it to be performed because of the pain that it arouses, and sometimes, even the slightest friction with the pillow causes them intense pain.
In people with a tendency to recurrent external otitis, it is important that, when leaving the pool, dry the external auditory canal and, eventually, place acidifying drops such as boron alcohol or isopropyl alcohol (according to medical prescription in each case).
Dr. Elisabeth Masgoret Palau / Policlínica Comarcal del Vendrell