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Preventing swimmers ear

News 12 at This Morning, Friday, June 3, 2011

AUGUSTA , GA --- The fun at the pool is sometimes coupled with a painful ailment called swimmers ear. People living in the south have to deal with it at a higher rate since many children and adults are trying to escape the heat.

This time of the year doctors offices are packed with children and adults infected with swimmers ear. Dr. Jack Borders at MCGHealth has treated many of them. "From April through October it is a very common problem," said Dr. Borders.

As many of us take a dunk to cool off water can seep into the ear canal and stay there. "There are bacteria that get into the thin delicate skin of the ear canal. They begin to grow and the body responds to that," explained Dr. Borders.

Leading to a painful infection and inflammation of the ear. The CDC says swimmers ear costs Americans $500 million dollars a year in health care costs. Dr. Borders says we maybe making the problem worse. "We very aggressively sometimes with Q-tips, finger tips, wash clothes go in there and try to clean that wax out."

He says you should never stick anything in your ear. If you're planning on spending a lot of time in the water there are ways to protect your ears.

"Children who are active swimmers, diving in the water and are swimming underneath the water or have very sensitive ears, they should wear plugs."

At MCG's audiology clinic they custom mold ear plugs for you. "We fill each ear canal with a soft silicone material and overtime it hardens," explained Dr. Miranda Pritcher.

That mold prevents water from getting in. "If we can prevent all of that just help them enjoy a safe summer in the water we're happy to do that," she added.

Those molds cost anywhere from $100 to $170 dollars depending on how much you customize them. You can contact the audiology clinic at MCG by calling 706 721 6010 and set up an appointment.

Dr. Borders also recommends never cleaning your ears out with a Q-tip. He says the wax is actually good for you and helps get rid of the water inside your ear. If you do want to clean them out he recommends a mixture of half vinegar and half rubbing alcohol solution. Use that mixture with an ear dropper and put a few drops in your ear to clean them out.