It’s Time For Those Tubes
Why would someone need ear tubes? If a family physician or ENT suggests ear tubes, there have been cases of multiple ear infections. Ear tubes, known as tympanostomy tubes, allow fluid buildup to drain from the middle ear while encouraging airflow. The surgical procedure reduces pain, pressure, and inflammation. Most surgeries are for kids, but adults can get ear tubes too. After surgery, some patients want to get back to pastimes like swimming. The goal of these tiny tubes is to remove fluid, so there may be some rules on getting back into the water.
Understanding ear tube surgery
Ear infections happen when there is a buildup of fluids or inflammation in the ear. This condition is the primary reason parents bring children to the doctor, but adults can get ear infections too. Ear pain, discharge, discomfort, loss of balance, and tugging at the ear are common symptoms. Infections usually respond well to pain medication and antibiotics. However, constant, chronic infections may require surgery. With ear tube surgery, the ENT surgeon makes a small incision in the eardrum. From there, a tiny metal or plastic tube goes into the space. The tube aerates the ear and relieves pressure. Over several weeks, the ear heals, and the tube falls out naturally.
How swimming affects your ear
Swimming is one of the reasons children and adults develop ear infections. The chances of bacteria in bodies of water are very high. Even sanitized pools contain bacteria that can get into the nose and ear. The eustachian tube between the nose and ear is short, increasing infection chances for children. Failing to dry the ear or drain the ear furthers the chances of swimmer’s ear, a bacterial infection.
Swimming after ear tube placement
Can a child or adult swim after an ear tube placement? The short answer is yes. Ear tube surgeries are minimally invasive and require just a few days of downtime. If the patient is an active swimmer, swimming is possible after a few days of necessary rest. Still, the patient must take precautions to protect the ear and integrity of the ear tubes. The easiest step is to use earplugs while swimming. For extra protection, use a swim cap to cover the ear. While there will be limited hearing, the ear will be protected to do what’s needed to remain safe in the pool. If there is any discomfort or discharge, see the doctor as soon as possible or use medication as advised.
Swimming after ear tube removal
After those tubes fall out, patients may be eager to book some time at the pool. Like swimming after insertion, precautions are necessary first. The patient must first visit the doctor after signs that the tubes have fallen out. The surgeon will assess the ear and gauge the patient’s recovery. If the surgeon gives the all-clear, use earplugs and swim caps accordingly. In both cases of swimming, make sure to dry and clean the ear. This extra time to aerate the ear reduces the chances of pain, discomfort, and further infections. Before a follow-up visit with the doctor in a month, limit the swim sessions and look for severe pain or discomfort signs.
Give your ear the space it needs
Chronic ear infections can be distressing for young and old alike. Ear tubes can help relieve the pressure and help with draining buildup fluids. There’s a common misconception that swimming is not advisable after ear tubes. However, this is not the case. Patients can swim after a few days of recovery after placement and after visiting the doctor after removal. Keeping the ear clean and dry can help. Keep chronic ear infections on the sideline, and don’t hesitate to dive in.