What's Going Around: swimmer's ear and respiratory illnesses

Published: Jun. 11, 2015 at 12:24 PM CDT
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The hot weather has more people swimming and that is increasing the prevalence of a painful ear infection known as swimmer's ear.

The condition is not specific to swimming pools or bodies of water, but are more common in the summertime, according to Lake Charles Memorial Health System infection preventionist, Bridget Redlich.  "Bacteria proliferate in a warm, moist environment," said Redlich, "and water that stays in the ear after swimming or even showering, if you don't get all of the moisture out and get it good and dry, then it can lead to swimmer's ear."

Redlich says cleaning your outer ear canal is necessary to help ear drops flow to all infected areas.  Depending on the severity of the infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotic or steroid ear drops.

It is not cold, cough or flu season anymore, but the respiratory symptoms of congestion, sneezing and coughing are still around.  "We will see people that present with a persistent cough that just won't go away, even after it's ruled out that it's allergy-related," said Redlich.  "It still needs to be looked at if it doesn't go away."

Redlich says pay attention to any changes in nasal mucus colors.  Clear or yellow is associated with allergies or colds.  Other colors indicate a bigger cause for concern.  "If it were to change to a darker brown or even sometimes a bloody color, a blood-tinged, that's definitely something that needs to be evaluated by a physician," said Redlich.

That could be a sign of a form of pneumonia or other serious respiratory illness.

If you do have a nagging cough, try to reduce your time around more vulnerable populations and practice good cough etiquette.  "Covering your cough, covering your sneeze, doubling up the Kleenex whenever you can so that you have more of a barrier," said Redlich, "coughing into your elbow, not coughing into your hand that then has to touch the doorknob before you get in the restroom to wash your hands in the sink."

Unexplained fever, weight loss, chills or night sweats can also be connected to a complication from a respiratory illness and you need to see your doctor.

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