"Dive into Summer!"
With a little help for those pesky summer swimming issues.
Venette LaRocca, RPh - Medina-River Styx location (inside Buehler's Fresh Food Market)
Q: My son always seems to get swimmers ear every summer. Is there any way to avoid it and what is the best treatment for it?
A: Medically known as Otitis Externa, swimmer's ear got its name because it often occurs in children and young adults who frequently swim. However, you don't have to be a swimmer to get it. It can come from mundane tasks such as routine showers. Swimmers ear is an inflammation of the external ear canal due to excess moisture. The excess moisture affects the regular wax layer which serves as a physical protective barrier in the canal. Having the canal compromised can lead to a bacterial infection as well.
Symptoms of swimmer's ear may include: itching inside the ear, watery discharge from ear, pain and tenderness in ear/when moving head/or pulling earlobe, foul smelling yellow discharge from ear and temporary muffled hearing.
There are ways to protect your ears and avoid this problem this summer.
- Use ear plugs. However, use with caution as they may scratch the ear's wax layer, inviting infection. With that thought, anything in the ear canal can compromise the integrity of the wax layer. So earphones must be placed gently as well.
- Keep the ears dry. Before and after swimming and even showering try the "Tilt and Tug" method to keep ears dry. Tilt your head to the side and tug gently on the ear lobe to let the water run out. Repeat on the other side. You can also use a blow-dryer, on the lowest setting, to remove moisture from the ears. Hold it at least a foot away.
- Wear a swim cap. It may seem old fashioned but can be preventative.
- Excess water ear drying products. Products like Swim-EAR® or Auro-Dri® remove moisture from the ear. There are also homeopathic ear products available such as Hyland's™ and Similasan.
Swimmer's ear usually responds quickly to treatment which typically includes an antibiotic ear drop and over-the-counter pain relief. The patient usually feels better in a few days. Therapy may be 5-7 days depending on the severity of the infection.
Q: Is it true that being in a swimming suit all day increases a woman's chance of getting a yeast infection?
A: Yes, this is true. This area is a delicate ecosystem. A slight change in the environment can cause overgrowth from the bacteria and fungi that naturally live in balance there. Being in a bathing suit for extended periods of time can invite excess moisture along with irritation (bathing suits are usually tight fitting), both contribute to increase chances of a yeast infection.
Prevention would include drying off as soon as possible after swimming or sunbathing. Change out of your wet bathing suit as soon as possible if you're not drying by the sun. Change into clean underwear, preferably cotton. Also, dry the area thoroughly after bathing or showering. If you work out, change out of sweaty clothes and shower. Wear material that is wicking for moisture. Avoid tight fitting clothes. Wash your bathing suit with some type of soap, don't just rinse it after each use.
Other factors that can increase your risk for such an infection are diabetes, obesity, pregnancy and taking antibiotics. Also, abstain or limit use of scented products on the area and practice hygienic wiping when using the bathroom.
Q: On vacation we love to be at the beach from morning to night. How can I keep the kids from getting sunburnt if they are swimming most of the time?
A: Beach vacations for Ohioans are very common due to our long winters and easy access to I-77. This can also mean sunburn. The basics for protection include: limiting exposure to the sun especially from 10-2pm, wearing protective clothing, and real sunglasses are essential for all age groups. Make sure when buying sunglasses for children that they are not toys but are labeled with UV protection level.
Sunscreen is paramount. Buy new sunscreen each year. New labeling is again upon us for sunscreens. You want a brand that is labeled at least SPF 15 (sun protective factor) or higher AND Broad Spectrum. The broad spectrum helps prevent sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging of the skin, therefor helping to protect your skin from the full spectrum of the sun. Sunscreens are no longer labeled waterproof, sweat proof or sunblock, but may be water resistant. Common sense tells you after you lather yourself with sunscreen and then jump into water, some of the protection might have come off, which is correct. Read the entire label of all products before using. Water resistant types of products will need to be reapplied every 40 to 80 minutes.
You can have fun at the beach and not turn red if you plan ahead a little and are vigilant with reapplying the sunscreen. This will allow you and your family to have a safe and non-painful beach vacation!