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Swimmer’s Ear (Again)

Posted Jun 25 2010 7:22am

Hey! Don’t come around here no more
Don’t come around here no more
Whatever you’re looking for
Hey! Don’t come around here no more

Sorry I’ve disappeared for a couple days. I’ve been in the bowels of hell fighting a just battle against a hoard of demons… or put another way.. I have swimmers ear again. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of pain I’ve been enjoying. For 3 days now I’ve been up most nights and caught only winks of sleep during the day. To make matters worse, when the doc called in the prescription our insurance company decided they didn’t like the meds and required a new one (neomycin).. (or I could pay over $100.00 out of pocket for the Ciprodex). That delay meant another day until I finally got meds.. Joy..

The term, “Swimmer’s Ear” is one of the top 3 search terms people use to find this site and one of the top 5 internal searches. That mean’s lots of folks here know the pain. (Here’s that past Swimmer’s Ear post that always comes up by the way). As we know swimmers ear is cause by a bacterial infection in the walls of the outer ear. As kayakers we often get it when rolling in lakes, rivers.. or in my case recently green ponds!

Often the first sign of swimmer’s ear coming on is a slight itching inside the ear which of course tempts you to put a finger in there and scratch… Bad move bucko! That’s exactly the sort of thing that will case the abrasions that make swimmer’s ear flourish! You may also start noticing slight pain or pressure in the ear. This is when home remedies may still work. As the infection get’s worse, a slight tug on the earlobe will be torture. Then you’re ear will swell up as well as the tissue around the ear. Swimmer’s ear, like a tooth infection can bring you to thoughts of suicide (well, close anyway!) It’s can be that bad!

The first line of defense is to always wear ear plugs when rolling (not always possible). The next defense is to do your best to dry out your ears after the rolling session. I’ve read of all sorts of contortions and shaking you can do to get the water out (never stick something INSIDE your ear) but they never work for me. What does help is a mixture of 50% isopropyl rubbing alcohol & 50% white vinegar. Normally I keep a small pre-mixed bottle in my first-aid kit. After each rolling session (when possible) I’ll lay out on a bench and put a couple drops in each ear. You need to give the mixture time to flow down into the ear canal before switching to the other side. If you have any scratches or abrasions inside the ear it WILL burn. The point of this exercise is that the alcohol helps remove the water and the vinegar kills the bacteria. The problem for me is that sometimes I get wrapped up after a class or session and just forget. As I did last weekend.

So if you are one of those folks who is susceptible to swimmer’s ear, I feel for ya. It’s awful. Each year it seems I spend some time a bit shell shocked and afraid of rolling after a bout. In the end my love of kayak rolling does win out. It’s roulette and at least once a year, I lose.

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Today’s Illustration: St Michael defeats the Devil – EugÈne Delacroix
* Please note that I am not a doctor and anything I saw here may be total bunny pucky.  Before trying anything I suggest talk to your doctor first!

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