As temperatures climb into the ninety's many Grand Valley residents are flocking to the pool to stay cool. But this can expose you to an unwanted infection lurking in the water.
"Swimmers ear is an infection in the external part of the ear which is different from an inner ear infection," says Dr. James Merrell. Swimmers ear is caused when bacteria grows in the delicate skin that lines the ear canal and certain things can make you more prone to the infection. "Typically there has to be some type of disruption of the skin like getting scratched or using a Q–tip," say Merrell. Many people use Q–tips to clean out their ears or to try to dry them after swimming or taking a shower. Dr. Merrell says it's not a good idea, "wax has anti–fungal and anti–bacterial properties and actually helps protect the ear from infection."
If you get an ear ache, there is an easy way to tell if it's swimmers ear.
"Tug on the ear and if it hurts to move it then it's swimmers ear," says Merrell. Once swimmers ear sets in you will need to see a doctor to get a prescription to clear it up because it won't go away on its own. "Drops are usually sufficient to clear it up, oral antibiotics are rarely needed," says Merrell.
If left untreated, swimmers ear can lead to more serious complications, even death. Merrell says, "if the infection is left to spread into the bone it can be life threatening because the bone is so close to the brain." So if you are already feeling the pain and think it might be swimmers ear, see your doctor immediately.