Swimming is a popular activity enjoyed by people of all ages, offering numerous health benefits. However, swimmers are often susceptible to ear infections due to frequent exposure to water. These infections, known as swimmer’s ear or otitis externa, can cause discomfort, pain, and even temporary hearing loss if left untreated. To help swimmers maintain optimal ear health and prevent infections, doctors recommend following expert tips and practices. Dr Sanjay Kumar, MBBS, DLO, DNB, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bangalore shares tips to avoid ear infections for swimmers:
Choosing the Right Ear Protection: Doctors strongly advise swimmers to use ear protection, such as earplugs or swim caps, to create a barrier against water entering the ear canal. Earplugs, specifically designed for swimmers, are readily available and help to minimize the risk of infection by keeping the ear dry. It is essential to choose ear protection that fits comfortably and securely, ensuring a proper seal.
Drying the Ears Thoroughly: After swimming, it is crucial to dry the ears thoroughly to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to bacterial or fungal growth. Experts recommend gently tilting the head to each side, allowing excess water to drain out. Using a clean, dry towel, carefully dry the outer ear and the surrounding area. Additionally, using a hairdryer on a low, cool setting can aid in evaporating any remaining moisture.
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Avoiding Excessive Ear Cleaning: While maintaining ear hygiene is important, excessive cleaning can disrupt the natural protective barrier of the ear canal, increasing the risk of infection. Doctors advise against inserting cotton swabs or any other objects into the ear canal, as this can push earwax deeper, potentially causing blockages or irritation. Instead, regular showering and cleaning the outer ear with a gentle, damp cloth are sufficient.
Seeking Medical Advice: If a swimmer experiences persistent discomfort, pain, or a decrease in hearing, it is crucial to seek medical advice promptly. Doctors are specially trained to diagnose and treat ear infections, and they can provide the most appropriate course of action. Prompt medical attention can prevent complications and ensure a swift recovery.
Applying Preventive Ear Drops: To further reduce the risk of ear infections, doctors may recommend using preventive ear drops specifically formulated for swimmers. These drops typically contain a mixture of acetic acid and alcohol, which helps to maintain the proper pH balance in the ear and prevent bacterial or fungal growth. It is important to consult a doctor or an ENT specialist before using any ear drops to ensure proper usage and avoid potential adverse effects.
Taking Breaks and Proper Rest: Allowing the ears ample time to rest and recover is crucial for swimmers. Frequent exposure to water can strain the delicate structures of the ear, making them more vulnerable to infections. Taking regular breaks from swimming, especially if there are signs of discomfort, can help prevent overexposure and provide the necessary time for the ears to recover.
Ear infections can be a significant concern for swimmers, but by following expert tips and taking necessary precautions, the risk can be minimized. Choosing the right ear protection, drying the ears thoroughly, avoiding excessive cleaning, seeking medical advice when needed, using preventive ear drops, and taking breaks for rest are essential practices to ensure optimal ear health. By incorporating these measures into their routine, swimmers can enjoy their favourite activity while safeguarding their ears from infections and maintaining overall well-being.
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