Avoid Pain In The Ear When You Swim

June 22, 2011

Risk For Ear Infection

Swimming is great exercise, but you'll get water in the ear.

Signs of an ear infection? You may have picked up that infection from a local pool. Swimming is great low impact exercise, and a fun summer activity for all ages, but pain in the ear caused by a trip to the pool can wreck summer plans.

Signs of an ear infection:

  • An itchy ear may be an early sign of an ear infection. Take preventative measures, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and colloidal silver can all be put in the ear to help kill germs (same as you would a scrapped knee!). Lay on one side, add a capfull, and dry the ear out after a few minutes.
  • Ear aches. Pain in the ear canal (outer ear) is likely an ear infection, and is often referred to as “swimmer’s ear” since it can be obtained from contaminated pool water or from water in the ear that persists after swimming. Pain in the ear after tugging (gently) on an ear lobe is a good sign the infection is outer, not inner or middle.
  • A swollen ear or fluid in the ear can be signs of  serious infection; seek medical treatment immediately.

Pools Can Cause Other Illnesses

The biggest thing is to swim in clean water: dirty lakes or poorly maintained pools may have a lot of bacteria, viruses, and even fungi and parasites that can cause infection!

Parasites like Cryptosporidiosis are common to pools, and are the main reason pools ask you to shower before swimming (besides not wanting hair and skin products washing off in the pool).

Like many pathogens, Cryptosporidiosis is more likely to affect people with a weakened immune system (even normally healthy people may be compromised if they are fighting allergies or other injuries/illnesses). It causes gastrointestinal illness, like diarrhea, but people with weakened immune systems (who are the most likely to get it) may have much more serious, even life-threatening symptoms.

Avoid Ear Infections (& Other Pool Illnesses)

  • Don’t use ear plugs. They are not 100% effective at keeping water in the ear out, but can do a decent job of trapping water in the ear, increasing the risk of ear infection.
  • Dry out ears after swimming. If you are prone to ear infections, use olive oil (or similar) in the ears before swimming to help keep water out.
  • Take action at the first sign of symptoms. Signs of an ear infection and other pool maladies can quickly turn serious (or just be really painful).
  • Strengthen the immune system so you are less likely to catch an infection.

What are your concerns about swimming? What are your rules for pool safety?

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