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Ear Canal Problems (Swimmer's Ear)

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Prevention

In most cases, it is best to leave your ears alone and let them maintain their own healthy, natural balance.

  • Do not scratch or clean the inside of the ear with cotton swabs, bobby pins, your fingernail, or other objects.
  • Removable earplugs may be used to keep moisture out of the ear canal. But prolonged use of earplugs can make your ears hurt and itch, and the earplugs can push earwax deeper into the canal. If this happens, your ears are more likely to get infected.
  • Keep soap, bubble bath, and shampoo out of the ear canal. Do not let a child lie down in the bathtub with his or her ears underwater. These products can cause itching and irritation.
  • Keep your ears dry.
    • After swimming or showering, shake your head to remove water from the ear canal.
    • Gently dry your ears with the corner of a tissue or towel, or use a blow-dryer on its lowest setting. Hold the dryer several inches (centimeters) from the ear.
    • Put a few drops of rubbing alcohol or rubbing alcohol mixed with an equal amount of white vinegar into the ear after swimming or showering.
    • Wiggle the outside of the ear to let the liquid enter the ear canal, then tilt your head and let it drain out.
    • You can also use nonprescription drops, such as Star-Otic or Swim-Ear, to prevent swimmer's ear.
  • If you use public swimming pools or hot tubs, ask about the chlorine and pH testing of the pool. You are less likely to get swimmer's ear from facilities that maintain good control of their pool testing and treatment.
  • Do not swim in dirty water or locations that have been closed because of pollution.
  • Follow any instructions your doctor has given you to treat skin problems—such as eczema, psoriasis, or seborrhea—that may cause ear canal irritation.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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