How do I prevent ear infections when it’s cold?
Winter has well and truly arrived! And, while some of us enjoy snow and ice, we all need to remember that spending extended periods out in the cold can have a negative impact on our health. Our ears in particular need protection from cold weather effects to avoid possibly irreversible damage.
Icy winds do not only irritate the ear canal but may cause severe pain. And our muscles, cramped as a consequences of the colder temperatures, may even cause tinnitus. To make matters worse, the chances of getting an ear infection in wintery conditions are much higher as less blood circulates.
Then there is possible hearing loss. Colder temperatures do not cause hearing loss directly but our body starts protecting itself to prolonged such exposure by, for example, increasing bone growth within our ears, a condition often referred to as “Surfer’s Ear”. Particularly, fans of winter sports, such as cold-water winter surfing or skiing, are at risk.
That’s why we put together this list of recommendations on how to protect your ears when working, or playing, outside in winter:
- Keep your ears warm, at all times, by wearing a hat, a helmet or else.
- Try to avoid getting the flu and get vaccinated against it. That way, when sick, you reduce the changes of any germs moving to your ears.
- Manage your allergies effectively to avoid your ear tubes from getting swollen. As swollen tubes can become blocked, fluids may build up which can cause an ear infection.
- Always dry your ear canals after swimming or showering. Here are some tips on how to remove water from your ears.
- Cigarette smoke acts as an irritant and may cause our tubes to become inflamed. You’re not a smoker? Well, secondhand smoke can actually have a similar effects!
- And, yes, a healthy diet and exercise will help keep your ears healthy by stimulating the blood flow to your ears.
- Never mind COVID-19, proper hygiene will always be good for your ears also. So, remember to wash your hands to help prevent any infections.
- To keep your passages free and clear, irrigate your nostrils to remove allergens and harmful bacteria – using a saltwater solution will be most effective.
We hope these tips help you keep your ears happy and healthy in winter. But, if you think you have an ear infection, please go and see your physician or ENT specialist straight away.