Preventing Swimmer’s Ear
pools across the state are scheduled to open this weekend in time for Memorial Day.
If you plan to splash around in water this
summer, don’t forget to protect yourself and
your children against swimmer’s ear.
all know the importance of applying sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer,”
Evans, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Our ears
usually don’t get the same attention, but it’s important to protect them, too.”
known as otitis externa, swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can occur when
water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time, providing the perfect
environment for germs to grow and infect the skin.
can be extremely painful, and if left untreated can lead to serious
complications,” Evans said. “But the good news is there are simple ways to
offers the following tips on preventing swimmer’s ear:
your ears after a dip: Use a towel and tilt your head each way to
help the water escape. A hair dryer on the lowest or cool setting also can help
dry out your ears.
about taking ear drops: For people who have never had ear
issues, using ear drops made of half vinegar and half rubbing alcohol after
swimming can help prevent infection and encourage drying. For those who have
had problems with ear infections or have had
ear surgery, it’s important to consult your physician before using ear drops as
they can have dangerous side effects.
objects out of your ears: This includes cotton swabs, fingers,
writing utensils, etc. A common misconception is that you have to go underwater
in order to get swimmer’s ear, but all it takes is a certain type of germ
finding its way into your ear.
your earwax alone: A healthy amount of earwax is your friend;
it helps protect your ears from infection.
using ear plugs: If you have recurrent ear infections, ear plugs can help keep your ears dry while swimming. Check
with your doctor on which kind of plug is best to use. For children with ear
tubes, while current guidelines do not require the use of ear plugs, it
is best to speak with your doctor about them.
the symptoms: Swimmer’s ear can affect people of all
ages. The most common symptoms are itchiness and redness inside the ear, pain
when the ear is tugged or when pressure is applied to it, and drainage.
“If you think you
have swimmer’s ear, consult your health care provider,” Evans said. “The sooner
we catch it and begin treating it, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to
enjoying your summer.”