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That sounds painful.
I think most of us have come to accept that most aspects of life have a peculiar duality to them. The good and the bad. Sports and beaches are fun, but we accept and understand the inherent risks that come with them.
Generally all this amounts to is moderation and prevention. Measures to ward off sunburns, bug bites and overheating. Sometimes though we can really be blindsided with what seems to be unnecessary consequences. Case in point: Swimmer’s Ear.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 123 Americans saw their doctors for outer ear infections. 40% of cases were during the summer months! Read on to find out five ways you can avoid being one of those cases and swim without fear of pain drilling through your skull afterwards.
1. There’s something in the water.
By paying close attention to where you decide to swim, you can potentially avoid an outer ear infection. Why do I say potentially? Well, not all cases of swimmer’s ear are caused by contaminants in the water. While it’s true that specific bacteria and fungus can cause an infection there could be other factors.
An unexpected one is chlorine. We associate chlorine in a pool with cleanliness but it can actually make your ear a more tempting target for an infection. This is because chlorine can change your ear canal from an acidic state to an alkaline one. Without the microbes, the changed environment in your ear isn’t at risk but it’s worth considering.
2. DON’T mind your own beeswax.
As difficult as it may be to believe, being extra militant about keeping a wax-free ear might be harming you. I know, it’s gross, but this notion makes sense if you try to understand. You see, your earwax is actually a barrier that helps prevent infection. We aren’t promoting abandoning this long-standing hygienic practice altogether though.
The key here is to be gentle. Being rough will damage the tissues in your ear, opening them up for infection. Using a dirty implement (please no) will seal the deal and cause an infection. If you really think you have a problem and are appropriately hesitant to fix it yourself, you should ask your doctor.
3. Plug it in, plug it in.
If water becoming trapped in your ears is a serious problem than there are tons of solutions! Water enthusiasts have readily available variations of earplugs to choose from. These will help seal your ear canal.
This works because it eliminates the potential for your ear to become contaminated with whatever may be in the water. It also has the benefit of keeping water from sitting in your ear to begin with; decreasing the odds for infection. The one caveat is fit. Make sure your earplugs fit well and don’t scratch or break the soft tissues in your ear; that would be extremely counterproductive.
4. Shake it! Shake it like a Polaroid picture!
As mentioned above, water becoming trapped in your ear is one of the main contributors to an infection-friendly environment. That’s kind of tricky to avoid with you know, complete submersion (and a lack of ear plugs) but there is another way. Once you’re done taking a dip just shake it off.
Tilt your head from side-to-side to let the water drain and use a towel to dry off any excess moisture. For people who are really prone to infections a hair dryer is par for the course. Some places even sell specific ear dryers!
5. An ear for an ear.
There are plenty of remedies for an outer ear infection, but not many you can employ as preventative. Health activist and blogger Colleen Russell has some insight however.
Apparently, if you’re prone to swimmer’s ear you can use 3 drops of colloidal silver in each ear a week. This natural anti-fungal and antibiotic prevents bacteria from binding to cells and setting up shop, without damaging your ear.
Lending an ear.
We encourage you to check in with your doctor to skip the pain and get back to the water. Too many people try to take matters into their own hands and just worsen their situation. With things like your hearing and facial nerves at risk (along with a lot of pain), it never hurts to run things by someone who knows best.