I am a keen swimmer but recently have found that every time I return from the pool, I have water stuck in my ear and it takes days to come out, leaving everything sounding fuzzy. A friend suggested using an ear candle. What do you think?
Swimmers can be prone to ear problems because of water and germs coming into the ear. A lot of patients complain about blockages and fuzzy feelings in the ear. It is hard for them to work out whether the problem is wax, an infection, water or something else, and that’s why an examination is essential, and a doctor or nurse practitioner in a GP surgery can do this.
It might be quicker to visit one of the high street audiology chains that offer checks and ear-wax removal for a modest fee. Some branches of Boots provide these services too.
Water can be tricky to get out of the ear canal. One way is to tilt your head down and pull your ear in different directions. This stretches the ear canal, allowing it to open up to drain the water. (Posed by model)
There is no need to remove excess wax unless this is deemed to be part of the problem. Wax is protective and serves a useful function preventing infection. And ear candles are not something doctors recommend. Ear candling is based on an idea that a hot candle placed in the ear will somehow pull wax out or soften it. In fact this could easily worsen the issue by causing infection or irritation.
Keeping the ears dry would be a good way to prevent the problem occurring in the first place, either with a cap, ear plugs or bespoke swim moulds (widely available from £40).
Water can be tricky to get out of the ear canal. One way is to tilt your head down and pull your ear in different directions. This stretches the ear canal, allowing it to open up to drain the water.
You can also use a hair dryer on a low setting and low power, to dry out any excess water.
I used to take ibuprofen regularly for painful osteoarthritis in my hands and wrists. But two years ago I suffered a heart attack and now have to take blood thinners, so I’m told I can only have paracetamol, or topical treatments such as Voltarol. These do very little and the pain regularly keeps me awake at night now. Are there alternative medications?
Osteoarthritis is hard to treat, as there aren’t that many options in terms of pain management. If someone cannot take anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, we have to think creatively. It is worth talking things through with a pharmacist who will be able to explain which medicines work well together and what must be avoided with heart medication.
Firstly, to use painkillers effectively, make sure you take them regularly rather than waiting for the pain to start.
A regime of regular paracetamol with topical anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen gel can be very effective.
Small amounts of codeine can also be used on top of this regime to deal with pain. Again, this is not anti-inflammatory but can allow you to move more normally and exercise, which is important.
There is also a rub-on medicine called capsaicin, which is a painkiller based on chemicals that make chillies hot.
As ever, the trick with good pain management is to trial combinations for a few days to find one that works.
The website Versus Arthritis (versusarthritis.org) is worth looking at for exercises and self-help strategies. If nights are a particular issue, consider a stronger painkiller before bed that also aids sleep.
This could be something such as a stronger dose of codeine or a codeine-type painkiller.
I’m an 89-year-old woman and about ten years ago I had successful surgery on my prolapse. Unfortunately, two years ago it recurred and I was booked for another operation, but Covid put it on hold. I decided to pay to go private in April, but surgery wasn’t successful and I have been referred back to the NHS. I’m still waiting to be seen, and can’t stand due to the pain. Do you have any advice?
This is simply not good enough. Within the NHS, if a patient was left unable to stand due to pain after surgery, they would be seen by the surgeon who did the operation.
Being left to find a solution elsewhere should never happen.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR ELLIE?
Email [email protected] or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.
Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies.
If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.
The doctor who did the operation needs to explain exactly what went wrong, and come up with a plan of action.
This at least should be covered at no extra fee, even if revision surgery isn’t.
Speaking to the insurer or, if self-paying, directly to the hospital would be the first step.
If they are unhelpful, it’s worth initiating a complaint while stressing the urgency of the situation.
If the complaint isn’t dealt with properly, the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service can help.
A prolapse is when the organs within the pelvis slip down through the vagina, due to age or weakening of the muscles and the support structures.
The womb, bladder and even bowel can prolapse. It is very uncomfortable and distressing, and often comes with incontinence.
For some patients, a ring pessary is useful.
This is a silicone ring that’s placed into the top of the vagina to act as a physical support for the slipping organs.
They should be fitted by a trained healthcare professional, as it can take a bit of fine-tuning to get the right size.
Surgical options include a hysterectomy, but there are other more minor options such as closing the vagina, which could be a safe and appropriate choice.
It’s time for the Government to get a grip on gambling
I am sick of seeing gambling adverts everywhere – on billboards, on TV and online – often featuring celebrities who no doubt pocket a hefty fee.
This is blood money. I see first-hand the misery gambling addiction causes people – such as the heartbreaking story of NHS worker Josh Hall, who stepped in front of a train after losing £12,500 at bookies Paddy Power.
I’m glad the Government plans to ban gambling ads featuring sportspeople and social media influencers who would be likely to appeal to children, from October, but I fear betting giants will find new ways to suck people in. (Above, football manager Jose Mourinho in an advert)
Such companies make much of having safety checks and backstops, but an inquest revealed last month that this simply meant an email asking the 28-year-old if he was happy with his losses.
I’m glad the Government plans to ban gambling ads featuring sportspeople and social media influencers who would be likely to appeal to children, from October, but I fear betting giants will find new ways to suck people in.
I’d also like to know – have you, or anyone close to you been affected by online gambling problems? Please write and tell me.
Diabetic crisis is no shock to me
I was disturbed by reports last week that suggested more than 3,000 diabetics in England may have died due to a lack of health checks during the first year of Covid. But I can’t say I was surprised.
In October 2020, I wrote to then Health Secretary Matt Hancock to warn of the harm that lockdowns were doing – people weren’t seeking help, or couldn’t get seen, routine appointments were cancelled, and things were being missed. Almost 100 other GPs signed my letter. Hancock didn’t reply.
But there is a wider problem: health chiefs simply don’t see the value of GPs. We think of patients’ health in a holistic way, and are not confined to one set of symptoms or conditions. We look at their mental health, and wider lives, and how those also affect wellbeing.
I’ve long said that if there had been a few more GPs advising the Government during the pandemic, we might not have suffered two years of relentless focus on Covid at the expense of almost everything else.