Swimmer's Ear; a[euro]Why Cannot the Ear Be Closed to Its Own Destruction? - William Blake (1757-1827), British Poet, Painter, Mystic. the Book of Thel (Plate 6, L. 11)

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr. Jose Pujalte Jr.

OH the long days of summer!

The kids are now soaking and dog paddling in the pool or beach - which after all, is what summer's about. All that aquatic play has its risks of course, among them an infection of the ear that can appear in just a few days after exposure to contaminated water.

Doctors call it otitis externa. But it is commonly known as "swimmer's ear." It is the infection or inflammation of the lining of the outer ear and the ear canal.

Causes and Risk Factors. An infectious organism, as mentioned, can be present in swimming water (this being of the least concern to children swan diving into Manila bay or the Pasig river). Moisture in the ears can also persist from too much bathing or living in a humid environment. Otitis externa can be the result of abrading the ear from too much scratching or rubbing with anything from a cotton swab, a pencil, or to the wire ends of eyeglasses. Sometimes bacteria multiplies from exposing the ears to hair sprays and dyes.

As a rule, swimmer's ear is more common in pre-school and school - age children. However, diabetic patients with impaired body defense mechanisms have increased risk of developing ear infection. There can also be a simultaneous infection of the middle ear (otitis media) and spills out if the eardrum is perforated. Swimmer's ear can also be associated with an ongoing upper respiratory infection such as the common cold.

Signs and Symptoms. Swimmer's ear is characterized by:

* Exquisite pain while tugging on the outer ear (pinna) or pushing on the small bump in front of the ear (tragus)

* Outer ear itching

* Muffled hearing

* Draining pus from ear

* Ear swelling or small lumps around the neck (enlarged lymph nodes)

* Usually one sided (only one ear involved)

* Reddish ear

* Scaly skin

Diagnosis. Visit your favorite family doctor or the ear specialist. While it may not be difficult to make a diagnosis on clinical findings alone, the good doctor will want to look into your ear with a lighted instrument called the otoscope. If there is some drainage, a quick swab of the pus is done and sent to the lab for the organism check.

Treatment. The doctor may want to clean the canal to allow medication to enter easily. A suction device is usually used. This does mean that cleaning your own ear at this time is not advisable. …