The first national estimates of swimmer's ear say it causes about 2.4 million trips to doctors and hospitals in a year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said swimmer's ear cases amounted to about $500 million in annual medical costs -- or roughly $200 per visit.
Some people get the problem repeatedly, and the CDC didn't estimate how many Americans suffer swimmer's ear each year. But according to calculations by The Associated Press based on CDC statistics, more than 2 million get it.
Swimmer's ear is an itchy, painful, outer-ear infection that can occur when bacteria in swimming water get through breaks in the skin. It's commonly treated with antibiotic ear drops.
More than half the cases were in adults. The CDC released the statistics Thursday.
WebMD lists some ways to prevent the condition:
Keep your ears as dry as possible while swimming. Use a bathing cap, ear plugs, or custom-fitted swim molds.
Dry ears thoroughly after a shower or a swim.
Keep objects out of your ears. This includes cotton-tip swabs.
Leave earwax alone. It protects the ear canal from infection. If the wax is interfering with hearing, see your doctor.
Ask your doctor about using a homemade mixture of equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar after swimming.
This remedy is not recommended for those with damaged eardrums, ear ventilating tubes, ear infection, or ear drainage.
Be sure the pool you swim in is properly disinfected. You can use pool test strips to check or ask the pool operator.
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