Tag Archives: Bacteria

Benched From Diving – Update

This is an update to an earlier post. Click here to read the original post.

It has now been two full weeks since the infection started and my ear still will not equalize so I went back to the doctor today to have my ear checked again.

Apparently the Augmentin (Amoxicillin/clavulanic acid) antibiotics and the antibiotic ear drops that the doctor put me on two weeks ago did not clear up the infection in my ear. The infection in my ear canal has cleared up, but the infection in my middle and inner ear seems to be antibiotic-resistant. There is also fluid still being retained behind the membrane (ear drum), which they say may take weeks to dry up.

This is the second ear infection that I have had so far this year. Because of my past issues with ear infections, and my eustachian tubes being so tiny, they are referring me to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist to have it checked. They also want to send me for a hearing test on that ear.

They are still worried about the possibility of there being a tiny hole in the membrane, but I don’t think there is because it is not draining fluid. It seems as if there were a hole there that it would drain and relieve the pressure behind it.

I will have to wait for the ENT specialist to call me to set up the appointments to find out what exactly is going on in there. So in the meantime they have put me on stronger intravenous antibiotics and I now have a portable pump that I wear in a shoulder pouch for the next ten days.

I hate getting IV’s. When I get my really bad migraines I have to get them for pain medication and hydration, now I have to wear one 24-hours a day for the next week and a half. This really sucks. I will see how it goes, you know they say that medics and doctors are the worst possible patients.

It’s been two full weeks since I have been able to dive, and it looks like it will be at least another two weeks before I can even begin to think about it again. My gills are going to dry up!

Dude, Your Wetsuit Stinks!

Wetsuits can become a source of unpleasant and often pungent odors (that is a nice way of saying that they can start to stink like a skunk).

Why does this happen, and what can you do to prevent this?

Sweat and oils that are naturally produced by our bodies become trapped in and on the neoprene material where they become a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria is the source of the offensive odors that come from our wetsuits.

Warm moist places are perfect for the rapid growth of bacteria, so the worst thing that you could possibly do is take your wet wetsuit off and toss it in the trunk of your car. The heat and humidity caused by doing this could also start mold growing on your wetsuit and other items in your trunk.

Don’t just think that wetsuit smells are caused by sweat and body oils trapped in the material. Urinating in a wetsuit also causes its fair share of wetsuit odors. A mentor of mine told me once that there are two types of divers: those who urinate in their wetsuits, and those that lie about it. So which of the two are you?

So, before everyone on the dive boat or at the beach starts whispering about you and avoiding being downwind of you, or people start trying to hand you spare change when they walk by you as if you were homeless, what can you do to get rid of the stink from your wetsuit?

As with anything else, prevention is better than cure. Preventing the odors from forming in the first place is where we want to start. Start by taking a shower before you put your wetsuit on. This will remove sweat and oils that are already built up on your skin before the dive. After the dive make sure you always thoroughly rinse out your wetsuit with fresh water as soon as possible after getting out of the water and then hang it out to dry in the shade away from direct sunlight. Doing this every time you use it will help keep the odors to a minimum, and help extend the life of your wetsuit.

I rinse mine every time, but it still stinks“. Ok, so you are still having an odor problem even though you are thoroughly rinsing the wetsuit out every time you use it, your in luck. There are several products on the market made for this specific purpose. Wetsuit shampoos are formulated to remove sweat, body oils, and other things which can cause offensive odors in wetsuits, and are specifically formulated to be safe for delicate neoprene fabrics.

Neoprene is made from petroleum (oil), so using a harsh cleanser, dish detergent, or degreaser could potentially damage the material or shorten the lifespan of the wetsuit. For this reason I do not encourage the use of such cleaners on wetsuits.

Wetsuit shampoos come in a variety of brand names such as: “Sink the Stink, Piss Off, McNett, Slosh, Suit FreshStinky Pete’s, and many, many others.

Be sure to read the directions carefully on the product label because some of the wetsuit shampoos are made to be thoroughly rinsed after washing, while others are not meant to be rinsed off at all.

Generally you would dilute the shampoo in fresh water and then soak the wetsuit for 10 to 20 minutes, then depending on the brand either rinse thoroughly in fresh water and hang to dry, or just hang to dry without rinsing.

Remember to always hang your wetsuit on a thick coat hanger to avoid tearing up the wetsuit material, and hang it in the shade away from sunlight. Sunlight and UV rays are the mortal enemy of wetsuits, making them age much quicker and making them less flexible and easier to tear.

Most wetsuit shampoos are mild enough that they can be used for more or less “regular use”. If you’r like me however and you dive multiple times per week, I would recommend thoroughly rinsing the wetsuit each day, and only use the shampoo on it once a week.

Remember, keeping your wetsuit looking, and most importantly smelling clean, will make it easier for you to find a dive buddy willing to spend the day around you.

What Causes “Swimmers Ear”?

EarOtitis externa or “Swimmers Ear” as it is commonly referred to is a very common ailment affecting swimmers, divers, surfers, and anyone else who spends a lot of time in water. Otitis externa is the fancy technical term for an external ear infection.

Contrary to popular belief and information posted on many diving websites and forums, bacteria in the water does not cause otitis externa. It is actually caused by bacteria that is already present and lurking inside our ear canals, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Ear wax is created by sweat glands that have been modified to produce the waxy substance that is present inside our ear canals. This necessary wax acts as a waterproofing layer that coats the canal and prevents water and bacteria from getting into the cells of the canal lining.

When the cells become saturated from frequent immersion in water they swell and pull apart just enough to allow bacteria to slip between them and find a warm moist place to grow and multiply underneath the surface of the skin. Once the bacteria is allowed to multiply and affect surrounding tissues the resulting pain begins to be noticed.

One easy way to determine where the ear is infected is by gently tugging backwards on the  pinna, which is shown in the above photo. You can also gently press on the fleshy lump just in front of the ear canal which is called the tragus, If this hurts, it is an outer ear infection, if not it is a middle or inner ear infection.

 If left untreated, the swelling can spread to the nearby lymph nodes and cause enough pain that moving your jaw becomes uncomfortable. At this point, the only treatment is antibiotics, either with pills, and/or ear drops, and diving is definitely out of the question until the infection has cleared up. If the infection becomes extreme, an antibiotic injection may be necessary.

Prevention

It is very easy to prevent otitis externa or swimmers ear, and it will not break the bank to do it, but the following steps need to be done precisely to be effective.

Create a solution of 50% distilled white wine vinegar and 50% isopropyl alcohol, both of which can be obtained from just about any grocery store. The white wine vinegar is approximately 4-6% acetic acid, and has a pH of 3.0, which is perfect to use as a bactericidal to prevent the bacteria from multiplying. The isopropyl alcohol acts as a drying agent to draw excess water out of the cells lining the ear canal.

To administer, lay on one side and drop enough of the mixture into the ear canal to fill the canal. The most important part of the treatment is to remain still and hold the solution in the ear canal for a full five minutes. After the solution has been in contact with the ear canal for a full five minutes, turn over to allow the solution to drain and repeat with the other ear canal.

If the solution does not stay in contact with the ear canal for a full five minutes, it’s effectiveness is greatly reduced. This procedure should be done twice daily, once before the first dive of the day, and then once more after the final dive of the day.

If there is a chance of a ruptured eardrum due to a squeeze, DO NOT place drops into the ear. Doing so may inadvertently flush bacteria into the middle ear causing a worse infection problem.

If the above steps are followed exactly as described, this will prevent you from having to miss a dive because of swimmers ear.

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