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Ear Infection Health Center

Understanding Swimmer's Ear -- Prevention

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How Can I Prevent Swimmer's Ear?

These tips may help you avoid getting swimmer's ear:

  • Be careful when cleaning your ears. Most doctors advise against using cotton swabs unless you're using it to clean the outside of the ear. Instead, wipe the outer ear with a clean washcloth. Do not dig into the ear canal, and never use a pointed object. Scratching the skin of the ear canal can let germs get in under the skin and cause infection.
  • Avoid earplugs, if possible. These can irritate the ear canal.
  • After swimming, tilt and shake your head to drain water from your ears.
  • Use a shower cap to keep ears dry while showering. Or dry your ears after showering with a hair dryer: Set it on low and hold it about a foot from your ear.
  • You can also dry out the ear and help kill germs after swimming or showering by squirting two or three drops of acetic acid or a combination of isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar into your ear. If you are prone to swimmer’s ear, apply these drops prior to swimming. Tilt your head so the solution gets to the bottom of the ear canal; then let the liquid drain out.
  • Avoid swimming in dirty water. If you swim in a lake or stream, rinse your ears out afterward with clean water or the solution mentioned above.
  • If you wear a hearing aid, take it out as often as possible to give your ear a chance to dry out; a hearing aid can push wax deeper into the ear canal.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on March 12, 2014

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