About Ear Care
If you or your children spend any amount of time around a swimming pool (or any other body of water), then you're probably familiar with swimmer's ear and other ear canal issues. Swimmer's ear is an extremely common malady that can affect swimmer's of any age. And while the inflammation is easily treated, it can be pretty painful and bothersome to deal with until it clears up.
What is Swimmer's Ear?
Swimmer's ear − also known by its scientific name of otitis externa − is the result of dirty water getting trapped in the inner ear canal. This trapped water is the perfect breeding ground for microscopic bacteria. Upon formation, the bacteria irritates the canal's delicate lining and causes itching and inner ear pain. Most of the time swimmer's ear is caught early, treated, and doesn't leave any lasting effects. But, if you or your child is experiencing more severe symptoms, such as swelling of the outer ear, fever, or radiating pain, then it's best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Ways to Treat Swimmer's Ear
Luckily, it's usually quite easy to treat a simple swimmer's ear infection. Over-the-counter ear drops can help heal and soothe the irritation and infection. And over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce swelling and decrease discomfort. When healing, it's best to stay out of the water for a few days to keep your infection from flaring up once again.
Ways to Prevent Swimmer's Ear
The best way to prevent swimmer's ear would be to stay out of the water altogether. But, for avid swimmers and water exercisers, this is next to impossible. The second best way to prevent swimmer's ear is to try to keep the ear canal from ever getting wet. Easy to wear, comfortable ear plugs, ear bands, and drying solutions do an excellent job at keeping water out of the ear canal, even when fully submerged.
Types of Ear Plugs
These types of ear plugs provide the most accurate fit. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and are pre-molded to fit your ear canal perfectly. Many swimmers like these types of plugs because they require no adjustent or gummy putty to work with.
A type of pre-molded plugs, vented plugs allow swimmers and divers to equalize their inner ear pressure with the plugs in. This makes them ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Slightly less personalized than pre-molded plugs, flanged or conical plugs come in a few different sizes and work by folding in on themselves to create a watertight seal. Imagine the shape of an arrowhead. These plugs are popular because they are easy to place and can accommodate a child as he or she grows.
Silicone putty ear plugs are the most widely available and economical type of plug. Rather than coming in a pre-molded form, the putty can be molded and shaped time and time again to fit perfectly into the ear canal. While the putty can be a bit difficult to work with, many parents love this type of plug because children have an easy time fitting it in their ears themselves.
Alternative Ear Protectants
Earbands are another option to prevent water from entering the ear canal. Unlike ear plugs, ear bands fit around the head and create a seal on the outside of the ear. Created by Canadian ENT doctors, the bands were designed for post-myringotomy patients to keep their ear tubes dry. Ear bands are easy for children to wear and can be paired with a set of ear plugs for an extra waterproof combination.
Even when using ear plugs and ear bands, it's always a good idea to use a drying solution after swimming, diving, bathing, or any other water-based activity. Ear drying solutions not only help dry the ears, but also keep their lining moisturized to prevent drying out and further irritation.
By taking all the necessary precautions, and following up each swim with an ear care routine, you can avoid swimmer's ear this swim season, and every season to come.