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Swimmer’s ear

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At the swimming pool, your kids are like fish in water! Sometimes, however, children and adults develop swimmer’s ear. Taking certain measures before and after swimming can help prevent swimmer’s ear from spoiling your summer vacations.

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What is swimmer’s ear?

In all kinds of weather, kids can spend hours having fun in water and may, as a result, develop swimmer’s ear, which is an infection of the outer ear canal. Adults, too, can develop this generally harmless but sometimes painful ailment. There are effective ways of preventing this problem, allowing everyone to enjoy his or her time in the water.

Normally, ear wax acts as a protective barrier against humidity and bacteria. After long periods in the water, however, ear wax loses its defensive properties. As a result, the outer ear canal becomes more prone to bacterial infection, and swimmer’s ear or acute external otitis may develop. This is a common problem among children, teens, and even adults. Symptoms generally appear 48 hours after going swimming. Swimmer’s ear symptoms include:

  • Pain in the ears (worse pain when you pull on the ear)
  • Itching in the ear canal
  • Feeling that the ear is blocked
  • Secretions from the ear
  • Diminished hearing

How to prevent swimmer’s ear

If you want to prevent swimmer’s ear, there are many things you can do before and after you go swimming, including:

  • Wear protective ear plugs when you go swimming
  • Wear a waterproof bathing cap
  • Dry your ears using a hair-dryer at a distance of 30 centimetres (1 foot) for 60 seconds after going swimming
  • Clean your ears with water only (no soap)
  • Avoid the use of cotton swabs to clean your ears

Another way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to use eardrops that dry the ear canal after swimming. Eardrops can be found in pharmacies or it can be made at home. For more information, speak with your pharmacist.

Treatments available at the pharmacy

If you think you or your child has swimmer’s ear, speak with your pharmacist, who will recommend appropriate treatment. Treatment for swimmer’s ear includes both pain relief and infection control. For the pain, you can use an analgesic such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen in accordance with your pharmacist’s recommendation. For dealing with the infection, eardrops are available over the counter in pharmacies. However, these medications are not appropriate for everyone – please speak with your pharmacist before purchasing them.

Applying eardrops effectively

Not everyone knows how to apply eardrops in the right way. It’s not easy to administer eardrops in your own ears and often it’s best to get someone to help. Here is how to administer eardrops:

  • Wash your hands with water and soap
  • Hold the bottle in your hands for a few minutes to warm the liquid and shake as per the manufacturer’s indications
  • Tilt your head so that your ear faces the ceiling
  • Gently pull the ear upward and toward the back (for children aged 3 years or older and adults) or downward and toward the back (for children aged less than 3 years)
  • Squeeze out the required number of drops from a distance of about 1 centimetre from the ear canal; to avoid contamination, the dropper must not touch the ear
  • Keep your head tilted for a few minutes
  • Wash your hands once again

Don’t let swimmer’s ear spoil your summer. By applying some prevention measures and spotting symptoms quickly, you can limit the impact of swimmer’s ear. So dive in and get the most out of summer!

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