In this article, Dr Ali has some advice on how to avoid ear infections.
Each part of the body has its own defence mechanism against external factors. Our ears play a crucial part in our ability to communicate with our environment and have their own defence mechanisms.
Over the course of evolution, mankind has adapted to live on land and generally don’t have much need to dive into water. As a result, the ears defence mechanisms have adapted to dry conditions as well.
Natural defences of the ear
Ears have their own microbial flora which contains nonpathogenic (incapable of causing infectious diseases) bacteria. These bacteria live within us and stop pathogenic (able to cause infectious diseases) bacteria growing on the inner surface of the ear.
Another of the ears defence mechanisms is ear wax (cerumen). The wax collects dirt, dust, water, insects, bacteria and fungi and other matter, preventing them from getting into the middle ear.
Ears have a self-cleaning process where everyday activities like moving your jaw and chewing help new earwax push old earwax to the ear opening where it flakes off or is washed off during bathing. This is a normal continual process, but sometimes this self-cleaning process fails. The result: a buildup of wax that can partly or fully block the ear canal which can affect your hearing.
What happens when I swim?
When you are on holiday the chances are you will swim every day. Chemicals, like chlorine, which are used to keep the pools clean and disinfected, kill the microbial flora in the ear too. In addition, the moist skin provides good conditions for the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and fungi.
If you have a build up of wax in your ear that’s partially closed the middle ear canal, the effect of the water mixing with the wax causes it to swell closing the ear canal completely.
What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
Redness of outer ear and neck
Pain in the ear
Discharge from the ear
The severity of the symptoms indicates how bad the ear infection is.
When to see a doctor
You should always see a doctor if you are displaying the symptoms of an ear infection. Some complications arising from ear infections (permanent hearing loss, Meningitis, Mastoiditis) can be irreversible and even life threatening if not treated, especially in children.
How to prevent ear infection
Prevention is always better than treatment.
Use suitable ear plugs whilst swimming taking a shower.
Avoid using cotton tip swabs – let the ears clean themselves naturally.
If you think you may have a problem with a build up of ear wax, seek the advice of a doctor before swimming or diving.
Pharmacies in Turkey are no longer allowed to dispense antibiotics without a prescription. Some pharmacies have been giving local anaesthetic drops for cases of ear infections. These drops reduce the symptoms but allow the infection to worsen and spread.
If you suspect you have an ear infection, please see a doctor!
Doctors and hospitals
If you do need a doctor during your stay there are clinics in most areas which are mostly open 24 hours during the peak summer season
The local hospitals also provide emergency medical care