Swimmers of any age can wind up with swimmer’s ear, an itchy, sometimes painful outer ear infection.
Each year in the U.S. these infections result in 2.4 million health care visits and $500 million in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s a lot of doctor visits and money for an infection that’s largely preventable.
With many swimming pools and beaches set to open Memorial Day weekend, the Illinois Department of Public Health is passing along the following swimmer’s ear prevention tips:
— Use a bathing cap, ear plugs or custom-fitted swim mold to keep water out of your ears.
— After swimming, dry your ears thoroughly with a towel. Tilting your head from side to side and pulling each earlobe in different directions with the ear facing down will also help the water drain.
— Before using ear drops after swimming, talk to your health care provider.
— Don’t put objects in the ear canal, such as cotton-tip swabs or fingers, and don’t try to remove ear wax. (The wax help protect against ear canal infections.)
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear appear within a few days of swimming and can include itching, swelling, flaking, pain and sometimes drainage, according to the health department.