Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Swimmer's Ear: An Ounce of Prevention

Swimmer’s ear (also known as an outer ear infection) is a painful, bacterial infection that can plague swimmers of all ages. Swimmers sometimes find that the swelling, redness, and pain associated with the infection pales in comparison to doctor’s order to STAY OUT OF THE POOL for a week to ten days. But there is good news! Steps can be taken to prevent swimmer’s ear.
In order to prevent swimmer’s ear, it is important to understand what causes this painful infection. The ear canal is coated with a thin layer of earwax. Just like oil and water don’t mix, water can usually run in and out of the ear canal with no problem. But constant exposure to water from swimming can cause moisture to become trapped in the ear canal and bacteria to grow. Irritation or a scratch in the ear canal can also lead to infection. 

After swimming, tilt your head to one side and then the other to allow water to drain out of each ear. Use a towel to gently dab your ear to absorb any moisture. Then clear out any remaining water with a mixture of one part white vinegar and one part white rubbing alcohol. I mix white vinegar and rubbing alcohol together in a clean, empty bottle that held contact lens solution. The large bottle holds enough of the mixture to last several weeks. The “dropper” allows for a few drops at a time rather than a gush of the mixture. Be sure to LABEL the bottle properly as a mixture for “ears only!”

Mix 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol in a bottled marked "for ears only" and use the solution after swimming.
You can also purchase a product made for this purpose such as SWIMMERS EAR. Check the ingredients to determine the amount of rubbing alcohol. Continual use of products with high content of rubbing alcohol can dry out the thin skin in the ear canal and cause it to crack making the ear even more susceptible to bacterial infection.
Remember, the best way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to keep the ear canal dry and free from scratches and irritation. To prevent scratching or irritating the ear canal, do not use cotton swabs or other objects to clean ears. As my pediatrician once warned, “Don’t stick anything sharper than your elbow in your ear!”

WARNING: No information on this website is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


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