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5 Summertime Tips for Healthy Ears

Experts explain how to avoid ear problems that are triggered by everything from swimming to loud music.

No. 4: Pierce Only in the Lobe continued...

Tanzi says she sees a fair amount of skin cancer on the top of the ear. It starts out as a red, flaky patch and can bleed easily if scratched. Consult a doctor if this occurs.

As for insect repellent, it's OK to put it on the outer ear. Never spray inside.

As for piercing, Tanzi recommends sticking with the lobe area, which has a good blood supply to fight infection. Piercing up the curve goes into cartilage, which has a shortage of blood and where a serious infection can get going and not leave. "It can be very difficult to clear those," Tanzi says.

Take care of newly pierced ears as instructed. Wash your hands before handling the area. Then soak a cotton ball in alcohol and smoosh it around over the earring and post several times a day. If the lobe starts to get hot or itchy (hours or days after the piercing), you may have an infection. If this cannot be stopped with antibiotic cream, you may need to let the hole close.

As for earrings, if you have a contact allergy to nickel, which is common, stick with gold or stainless steel posts or hooks. Tanzi says that commercial coatings for ear wires designed to keep the nickel away from the skin don't work well for the severely allergic.

No. 5: Plane-Proof Your Ears

The next time you start to deplane, and babies and toddlers start screaming, this is a good thing! "Not equalizing pressure in the ears on planes is called barotitis," explains Rosenfeld. "This is not a problem when taking off, but it is when landing. Such a severe vacuum situation may be set up in the ears that a traveler may have severe pain, bleeding, or even perforation [of the eardrum].

"You want to chew, yawn, swallow -- anything to move the pressure around when landing," he adds. "If you have problems with this you can even take an oral decongestant before leaving."

Children can be especially susceptible. "Don't let your child remain asleep during landings," Rosenfeld says. "If they cry at the landing -- that is a good thing. It is equalizing pressure."

"A pacifier can also help kids with this," Maddern says. "Or give them some water to sip." Chewing gum is not recommended for toddlers, much less infants.

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Reviewed on July 02, 2007

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