Preventing swimmer's ear

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - With temperatures soaring and heat indices topping out in the triple digits this week, folks are flocking to swimming pools and local waterways. But this could expose you to an unwanted infection.

It's that time of year again when pediatricians see a spike in the number of ear infections.  Dr. Albert Richert, Jr. with The Pediatric Center in Sulphur says, "Injury to the ear canal, swimming and putting things in your ear can scratch the outer ear canal and cause some injury and swelling and infection."

Unlike an infection of the middle ear, Dr. Richert says swimmer's ear happens when bacteria grow in the ear canal. In that canal, there's delicate skin that is protected by a thin coating of ear wax.  "The ear wax forms a barrier that can protect the skin," says Dr. Richert, "it helps keep the acidity at the right level in the ear, which helps prevent bacterial growth."

Many people clean their ears each day with a cotton swab, but this is actually frowned upon because you're getting rid of the "good" ear wax.  "The old adage is to never place anything in your ear that's smaller than your elbow," says Dr. Richert, "which basically means - don't put anything in your ear."

So if you or your child will be beating the heat in the water this summer, you need to take some extra steps to ensure that your ears stay healthy.  "One of the best ways is actually to use a hairdryer," says Dr. Richert, "to blow-dry your ear, you hold the blow-dryer about 12 inches from your ear and blow warm air into your ear and that dries your ear out."

Like many professional swimmers, Dr. Richert says shaking your ears when you get out of the water also helps to keep them dry. Swimmer's ear drops can aid in prevention, but if you are already feeling's too late!  "You can use swim ear drops to prevent the pain," says Dr. Richert, "but once the pain comes on, stop using those and you need to go see your doctor."

Antibiotic eardrops are prescribed to treat swimmer's ear. Swimming caps can help with keeping water from entering the ear, but ear plugs are not recommended unless they are specially fit to the person.

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