Swimmer’s ear leads to around 2.4 million doctor visits each year and is responsible for nearly $500 million dollars in annual health care costs, according to estimates released by CDC on Thursday. Swimmer’s ear can develop when water stays in the ear canal for a long time, allowing germs to grow and infect the skin. Exposure to water—through swimming, bathing and other activities—and living in warm and humid climates increase the risk of developing swimmer’s ear. Germs found in pools and at other recreational water venues are one of the most common causes of swimmer’s ear.
In 2007, 1 in 123 Americans went to the doctor for swimmer’s ear. Cases peaked during the summer swimming season, with 44 percent of cases occurring in June, July or August.
The CDC put together a guide of DO’s and DON’Ts to keep your ears healthy and safe this summer!
Swimmer’s Ear Prevention Guidelines
- DO keep your ears as dry as possible: use a bathing cap, ear plugs, or custom-fitted swim molds when swimming.
- DO dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering: use a towel to dry your ears well. Tilt your head to hold each ear facing down to allow water to escape the ear canal. Pull your earlobe in different directions while the ear is faced down to help water drain out. If there is still water left in ears, consider using a hair dryer to move air through the ear canal. Put the dryer on the lowest heat and speed/fan setting; hold it several inches from the ear.
- DON’T put objects in the ear canal (including cotton-tip swabs, pencils, paperclips, or fingers).
- DON’T try to remove ear wax. Ear wax helps protect your ear canal from infection. If you think that the ear canal is blocked by ear wax, consult your healthcare provider.
- CONSULT your healthcare provider about using ear drops after swimming. Drops should not be used by people with ear tubes, damaged ear drums, outer ear infections, or ear drainage (pus or liquid coming from the ear).
- CONSULT your healthcare provider if you have ear pain, discomfort, or drainage from your ears.