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Understanding Swimmer's Ear -- Prevention

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. 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 Dan Brennan, MD on March 11, 2015

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