Ear Hygiene

Swimmer's ear fungal infection

By: Megan Evans

What causes Swimmer’s ear?


Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is inflammation caused by water or other substances entering the ear canal.  Debris and water interferes with the lipid layer, a protective coating of the ear. Once the lipid layer is irritated, infection may occur. It is important not to scratch inside your ear because the lipid layer protects the skin, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water.

For instance, ear wax (cerumen) is known to reduce the viability of a wide range of bacteria, including Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus, and many variants of Escherichia coli, sometimes by as much as 99%. If you already have swimmer’s ear, avoid getting water in your ear for 5-7 days or until your symptoms clear.

How to prevent Swimmer’s ear:

  • Wear earplugs or a silicone ear cap when swimming and when showering.
  • Avoid getting any type of debris in your ear. Debris such as soap and shampoo may also cause irritation.
  • If your ears are sensitive, opt for external head phones so that you don’t irritate your ear canal.
  • Impacted ear canals can also increase your chance of getting an ear infection.
  • Do not put any sharp objects in your ear and avoid using a Q-tip. Instead, opt for over-the-counter ear cleaning kits or an ear wax vacuum.

How to clean your ear:

Tilt your head to the side and insert a few drops of rubbing alcohol, which will absorb excess water and kill bacteria and fungi. Hold your head to the side for several minutes so that the rubbing alcohol can thoroughly clean your ear. If rubbing alcohol is too harsh, try a 50:50 mixture with white vinegar. Acetic acid, an organic compound found in vinegar, will also kill bacteria and fungi.  

Caution: Consult your doctor prior to using this mixture if you have had ear surgery, an ear infection, or a perforated, ruptured, or punctured eardrum.




young child with earache

5 Facts about Ear Tube Surgery and Ear Infections

If you have young children it’s likely you’re very familiar with earaches. Statistics reveal that 75 percent of children will have at least one ear infection before they are three years old. Many children seem prone to earaches every few months.

As a parent, earaches can be frustrating for you and painful for your child. You may wonder why they get earaches and adults rarely do. The answer is simple: your immune system is much more robust than a child’s and that means ear infections are simply a part of growing up. That’s one fact about ear infections or otis media, which is the technical term for an ear infection.

The Ear, Nose and Throat Center regularly treats ear infection and earache in our Salt Lake City, Park City and Draper offices. To help you understand earaches, we’ve written 5 Facts about Ear Tube Surgery and Ear Infections.

Fact #1: Ear Infections Exhibit Common Symptoms

One of the difficulties parent’s face with ear infections is that they often strike young children who can’t yet communicate with words. In other words, they can’t always tell you that their ear hurts.

But even pre-verbal children will often demonstrate the following earache and ear infection symptoms:

• Fever
• Pulling or rubbing the ears because of ear pain
• Fussiness or irritability
• Fluid leaking from the ear
• Changes in sleeping habits or appetite
• Trouble hearing
• Turning up the TV/radio volume or inattentiveness

Watch for these symptoms and if you think your child has an ear infection, contact the Ear, Nose and Throat center for an appointment with one of our board-certified doctors. We’ll quickly diagnose the situation and create a treatment plan.

Fact #2: Ear Tube Surgery is Not First Choice to Treat Ear Infections

There are two types of ear infections: bacterial and viral. Bacterial ear infections may be effectively treated using antibiotics. Viral ear infections, on the other hand, do not respond to antibiotics and must simply run their course, much like a common cold.

A recent article in New Parent Magazine offers some useful guidance on what to do if your child gets an ear infection.

The Ear, Nose and Throat Center only recommends ear tube surgery when a child has suffered from multiple, recurring ear infections and/or speech development is delayed or the child exhibits hearing loss.

Read: ENT Doctor Answers 5 Questions about Ear Tube Surgery

Fact #3: Ear Tube Surgery is Common for Chronic Ear Infections

While the mere mention of surgery can strike fear into the heart of most parents, rest assured that ear tube surgery is common. In fact, approximately 2 million ear tubes are placed in young patient’s ears each year.

Fact #4: Ear Tubes are Used to Equalize Pressure in Eardrums and Minimize Future Infections

The goal of ear tube surgery is to remove fluids and equalize pressure within the eardrum. During the ear tube surgery, the doctor will make a tiny incision in the eardrum and will remove any fluid from the ear. This incision is in the inner ear and will never be visible.

At this point, the doctor inserts a small plastic tube into the eardrum and will place tiny ventilating tubes that will remain in place for a few months to several years. Ear tubes eventually naturally emerge from the eardrum and are either removed by a doctor during a routine checkup or, in some cases, ear tubes will fall out on their own.

Fact #5: Ear Tubes Help Prevent Ear Infections

There are many benefits of ear tube surgery. Most important, they help young children feel better and that’s a huge relief to worried parents. Ultimately, ear tubes:

• Allow air to enter the middle ear
• Enable fluid to drain from the middle ear into the ear canal
• Help restore hearing by clearing fluid from the middle ear
• Prevent fluid from accumulating in the ears while ear tubes are present
• Reduce pressure in ears which, in turn reduces the pain a child feels

See an ENT Doctor to Learn More about Ear Tube Surgery

We see plenty of earaches in Utah and we agree that ear infections are no fun. But with a variety of treatment options, we’re confident we can help improve your child’s health. Give us a call at 801-328-2522 and an ENT doctor in Salt Lake City or Draper will work with you to diagnose and treat your child’s earache.

Learn more: Learn what you can expect with ear tube surgery

Read: ENT Doctor Answers 5 Questions about Ear Tube Surgery and Otis Media