Friday, May 27, 2011

My child is swimming - how do I prevent Swimmer's Ear?

It's summertime, and everyone seems to be hitting the pool.
While swimming is not as prevalent in India, as some of the western countries, it is fast catching up, with the mushrooming societies, wherein a swimming pool is a must. While swimming is a great low impact exercise, it can lead to a few minor medical problems.
Swimmer's ear (also known as otitis externa) is an infection of the outer ear canal that can cause pain and discomfort for swimmers of all ages, more so in children. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear usually appear within a few days of swimming and include Itchiness inside the ear, Redness and swelling of the ear, Pain when the infected ear is tugged or when pressure is placed on the ear, and in advanced cases pus draining from the infected ear. This is not the same thing as a middle ear infection (fluid in the ear).
If you can wiggle/ move the outer ear without pain or discomfort then your ear condition is probably not swimmer's ear.

Swimmer’s ear 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. Germs found in pools and at other recreational water venues are one of the most common causes of swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear cannot be spread from one person to another. Swimmer's ear can often be treated with antibiotic ear drops, after consulting your doctor.
Now coming to its prevention,

DO keep your ears as dry as possible.

  • Use a bathing cap, ear plugs, or custom-fitted swim molds when swimming to keep water out of your ears.

DO dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering.

  • Use a towel to dry your ears well.
  • Tilt your head to hold each ear facing down to allow water to escape the ear canal.
  • Pull your earlobe in different directions while your ear is faced down to help water drain out.
  • If you still have water in your ears, consider using a hair dryer to move air within the ear canal.
    • Be sure the hair dryer is on the lowest heat and speed/fan setting.
    • Hold the hair dryer several inches from your ear.

DON’T put objects in your ear canal (including cotton-tip swabs, pencils, paperclips, or fingers).

DON’T try to remove ear wax. Ear wax helps protect your ear canal from infection.

  • If you think your ear canal is blocked by ear wax, consult your health care provider rather than trying to remove it yourself.

Suggested reading - Tips for healthy swimming

So have a great time swimming, but follow the above tips for a safe summers!

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