Check your pools... and your ears

By Anna Yee

July 11, 2012 Updated Jul 11, 2012 at 7:44 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- A supervised swim doesn't mean your children are totally safe.

It's what you do when they're out of water that could save you and your kids a trip to the doctor.

"Otitis externa is the official medical term," said Dr. Troy Pequette, a pediatrician at OSF Medical Group in Peoria.

The common term is "swimmer's ear."

Doctors say if you don't dry the inside of your ears, bacteria can grow, causing extreme pain, and in rare cases, meningitis or hearing loss.

Nationwide, nearly 2.5 million swimmers get the infection, which is treated with antibiotics.

Anyone can get "swimmer's ear," but kids are more prone to it.

That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Speaking of prevention...

"One of the old-fashioned things that we do and seems to work well is a mixture of rubbing alcohol and vinegar," said Dr. Pequette. "Put a few drops in after you swim. That can help keep swimmer's ear from brewing."

And the heat doesn't help.

"The hotter the water, the easier it is for things to grow," said Graham Knightingale, manager at Aquatech pool and spa services, "but also what happens, when it's hot, we use the pool more. So, we sweat and bring contaminants into the water. It's kind of like a double headed sword."

Knightingale says pool owners need to stay on top of sanitation.

Anyone can do the at home test that checks free (or "healthy") chlorine and pH levels.

Those are the two main components of keeping pool water safe for swimmers.

Experts advise checking pool water every day and checking your ears after every swim.