As the summer heat drives people into swimming pools and lakes, it’s important to remember that those refreshing dips can lead to excruciatingly painful ear infections.
Dr. Barbara Schultz, associate professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at
UT Southwestern Medical Center, recommends treating the ears with over-the-counter drops that cost $2 to $3 per bottle or with a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol after leaving the water for the day.
“When water mixes with ear wax, that’s a perfect growth medium for bacteria in a dark, somewhat enclosed space like the ear,” she says. “Swimmer’s ear is painful, and the antibiotics we use to treat it are much more expensive than the preventive measures.”
Most people with surgically implanted tubes or damaged eardrums can swim, but should do so with a doctor’s approval, Dr. Schultz says. They also should not apply drying drops or vinegar and alcohol after swimming. It would not damage the ear but would be very painful.
“If they did it once, they wouldn’t do it again,” Dr. Schultz says.
Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/earnosethroat to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services for ear, nose and throat conditions.