My ears are sore and itchy after swimming
I took up swimming in an effort to lose weight. Two months on down the road I’m loving it — and I’m losing the bulge too! The problem is that my ears have been giving me a lot of grief since I started swimming. They are really itchy and sore. What should I do?
Teresa, Co. Cork
SWIMMING can cause a lot of problems with ears. This is because the water gets into the ear canal and can irritate it. As pool water is used by others (it’s a cauldron of communal bugs!) if it gets in the ear, it can also potentially create an infection in there.
If your ear is irritated and you scratch the inside this can also cause a pocket of infection.
If the inner ear gets wet, the other thing that can grow in there is fungus — which loves dark, moist cavities.
Any of these situations can result in itch and irritation and even the sensation that the ear is blocked. In fact, swimmers are five times more likely to suffer from outer ear problems, but that’s no reason to give up. Instead, you can take some precautions.
Firstly, prevent any soap or shampoo getting in your ears when you bathe or shower. When washed, do not dry your ears with the corner of the towel or clean them out with ear buds. By doing this, you are only encouraging infection and irritation.
Wear a swim cap that covers your ears — these aren’t the most fashionable garments but they will really help.
Ear plugs may be worn but be warned, these sometimes irritate the ear as well.
See your GP, who can prescribe some drops or spray for about five days, which will both calm down any irritation and kill off any infection. Finally, if at all possible, don’t scratch the ear no matter how itchy — it will only make matters worse.
My big toe is extremely stiff and painful. And when I move it at all, it seems to get inflamed. It’s restricting my movement and its stopping me from getting about comfortably. Should I just rest up or get it looked at? Jennifer, Co. Dublin
THERE is a condition called Hallux Rigidus, where the joint in the big toe becomes stiff and inflexible due to wear and tear. It may result in you not being able to move the toe upwards or downwards, with it being literally fixed. It’s not surprising that this joint is under stress, as it has to bear twice your body weight when you mobilise.
The more weight you carry, the bigger the burden for the big toe. This wear and tear can start as early as in your 20s.
It may also happen later on in life and can be for no apparent reason, due to an inherited trait , or associated with flat feet.
The key with this condition is to diagnose it and start treating it early. My advice would be to see a podiatrist — these are people who specialise in everything to do with the lower limb, from bunions to ingrown toenails.
They can make you devices (such as insoles) to put in your shoes to improve the pain and take the strain off the toe.
They can also advise you on adaptations to footwear and appropriate shoes.
You need to take the pressure off the toe on a day-to-day basis, because you are not just using it when you are mobile, this toe is on duty even if you are standing still!
If you don’t have this looked at, what you will find is that you may start walking in a way so as you avoid pain in the toe, so you would be changing your gait.
Unfortunately in doing so, you may create extra pressure on the ball of your foot. This would then result in further pain elsewhere in the foot.
If any acute pain develops, for example, it might happen after you have been walking for a long time, anti-inflammatory tablets can help to ease it.
Another thing that would help with that kind of pain is icing it and keeping it up for 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, you can also purchase off-the-shelf insoles from pharmacies to trial while you wait for your podiatry appointment. Good luck!