Maybe it’s happened to you: after a long day in the pool, splashing and swimming with family and friends, you finally come out to dry off and sense a heavy feeling in your ear. There’s a crunching sound, and your ear feels as though it’s been plugged, though you’re capable of hearing everything around you. Later on, your ear may feel sore. Yes, you’ve developed a case of “swimmer’s ear,” where the water has seeped into your ear canal and won’t come out. You might think, well, it’s just water, what harm can it do?

In truth, water in the ears can cause damage down the road if not taken care of, so it’s important to do what you can to get rid of the water or else you might end up in the doctor’s office.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than two million visits to doctors and clinics over the last few years were cases of swimmer’s ear, and this isn’t necessarily a malady that affects only children. Anybody who spends time swimming can get it – the risk increases the longer you stay in the water with your ears submerged.

If not treated, one may develop an ear infection over time, for remaining water in the ear can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Glands in the ear canal which produce wax for protecting the inner ear may become damaged as well.

Thankfully, there are ways to handle the problem before it’s necessary to seek medical treatment. Preventative measures, for one, can keep all swimmers protected and decrease the risk. Using a bathing cap that covers the ears, or special ear plugs for swimming, is one way to keep water from settling in. Once you do have water in your ears, though, consider these steps to stay healthy:

  • Towel dry your ears thoroughly after swimming, while tilting your head to allow excess water from your ears. Tug on your lobes, too, to help the water along.
  • Use recommended commercial ear drops designed to treat swimmer’s ear. If you can’t find anything at your local drugstore, a homemade remedy of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar will do the trick. Don’t use alcohol drops, however, if you have pre-existing ear problems.
  • Make sure the water you’re swimming in is balanced, check the pH levels. Clean water is less likely to maintain and spread germs.
  • If you still feel water inside, use a hair dryer on a low setting to nudge the water out of your ear. Don’t hold the dryer too close to your ear, and remember to tilt down to let the water drip out.

Don’t let swimmer’s ear ruin your summer. Take care to keep water out, and know what to do to stay healthy.

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