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November « 2012 « Joseph Spindler's Blog

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Archive for November, 2012

Swimmer’s Ear

Friday, November 30th, 2012

With some of my teamTBB Germany athletes, I’m currently in a heavy swim block. The weather outside is pretty cold in Germany, with some snow already. So now ist he best time to work on that swim.

However, I suffered several times from swimmer’s ear, also called otitis externa. It’s an inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal. It occurs rather suddenly, rapidly worsens, and becomes very painful and alarming. The ear canal skin swells nd becomes tender to touch – sometimes to such an extent, that even chewing is painful. So I had to stick to very soft food, or simply eat less ;-)
As at least in European’s northern region lots of athletes hit the pool more often right now, I thought I post how I deal with this condition.

To develop otitis externa two factors are required (1) the presence of germs that can infect the skin and (2) impairments in the integrity of the skin of the ear canal that allow infection to occur.

Therefore it is very important to not injure your ear’s skin by inserting anything into the ear canal. Avoid strictly the use of cotton buds or swabs! It is the most common event leading to acute otitis externa!

As germs love warmth and wetness, swimming exposes your ear to lots of that germs, and the water entering your ear additionally alterates the your ears skin. So to prevent otitis externa it helps to stop water from getting into your ear.

Before your swim, put some cotton batting into your auricle to avoid water entering your ear canal. Even better is to apply some skin cream on the batting before putting it into the auricle. Skin cream contains fat and fat is hydrophobic. This works really well. Never use one of these ear plugs twice to avoid contaminating the healthy or healing ear.

Always use a swim cap, it holds the batting in place and also helps to avoid water getting into your ear.

If despite of all that you nevertheless develop acute otitis externa, go to your physician. He will remove debris (wax, shed skin, and pus) from the ear canal. Next he will insert a wick of cotton, saturated with a medication, which fights swelling and germs.

Also taking an NSAID (Paracetamol, Ibuprofen etc.) will give you some relief of pain and it also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Usually most oft the pain is gone within three days.

Your physician will tell you to stop swimming until your ear has healed completely. However, this is not an option for a TBB athlete swimming a heavy swim block. ;-) So using the above mentioned cotton batting with cream will sufficiently keep water away from your ear canal and help healing. Healing process may take a few days longer – but at least you don’t miss a session.

Happy swimming!