By ENT Prof. Dr. Ashraf Fayek – Cairo University and Consultant at Oasis Clinics
Why do we see an increase in ENT cases in summer?
Swimming is a favorite past-time in summer, but with swimming comes the chance of contaminated water entering the ear canal, especially in pools. A minor trauma, like scratching the ear may trigger an infection of a bacterial or fungal variety, the resulting ear infection is called Swimmer’s Ear (or Otitis Externa). ENT
Water entering the ears while swimming can also swell up the wax inside, leading to discomfort and hearing problems. Middle ear or eardrum infections often follow a cold or sore throat, which in turn can happen due to accidental swallowing of water or water entry into the nose.
Summer also marks the pollination season for many flowering plants and trees. Pollen dispersed into the air may trigger an allergic response in the nose leading to Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis. ENT
That’s not the only thing you have to watch out for in the summer; dryness coupled with rising temperatures may trigger nasal bleeding called Epistaxis. Hot weather dries up the nasal passages, especially at the nostrils.
The mucosa inside the nose is so richly supplied with blood vessels that it bleeds easily when hot air is inhaled. Nasal pricking increases the incidence of Epistaxis.
Also, the gathering of people in summer on the beaches, in restaurants, food corners and closed air-conditioned areas increases the incidence of droplet infection, causing Sinusitis and Pharyngitis. ENT
How does air conditioning play a role?
Air conditioning can affect people’s sinuses. A cold, dry room triggers runny noses the same way that going outside in the winter after being in your warm house does. The sudden change in temperature and humidity triggers glands in the nasal membranes to produce mucus.
The problem may be particularly common in those with an allergy because small particles like pollen, mold spores, pollutants and dust mites can get trapped by air-conditioning filters and then released into the air when the machine is turned on and cause allergic reactions that may be particularly long-lasting.
Also, throat congestion and infection may occur from long exposure to dry cold air or from droplet infection being trapped in a closed non-aerated place.
Can children be more vulnerable?
Children are most vulnerable to these problems, as they like gathering and playing together, which makes them easily exposed to droplet infection. The frequent daily intake of cold citrus juices, ice cream and soft drinks may also lead to throat infection and Tonsillitis, especially with those suffering from Chronic Tonsillitis.
Children commonly scratch their ears after swimming, which leads to bacterial or fungal external ear infection. In addition, nose pricking done by some children can cause nasal bleeding (Epistaxis).
How to avoid ENT problems
- Prevention is better than cure.
- Pool water should be clean and regularly maintained.
- There is no need for earplugs.
- Definitely don’t use earbuds or any other tools for drying or cleaning the ear canal. Leave the ear to dry by itself.
- Avoid nose pricking.
- Those prone to seasonal nasal allergy on a yearly basis will benefit from a course of prophylactic (preventive) medicines taken during the allergy season.
- Prolonged periods in air-conditioned surroundings are definitely not advisable. Fresh air is by far healthier.
- Decrease the intake of ice cream, canned juices and soft drinks and replace them with water and fresh home prepared juices.
- The filter of the air conditioner should be replaced or cleaned regularly.
How to handle a problem before visiting the ENT specialist
Ear infection can be painful and needs analgesics and maybe antipyretics to decrease any fever, eg. Panadol. Don’t try to clean the external ear or use any local medication or wash the ear.
Throat infections also need analgesics, antipyretics, warm fluids and semi-solid food.
Nasal bleeding should be handled by leaning slightly forward, pinching gently the nose and putting ice on the root of the nose. If any kind of nasal drops is available, you can put few drops in both nasal openings before nose pinching. Check blood pressure, especially in hypertensive cases.
Have a safe and happy summer!