With summer in full swing, there’s nothing more refreshing than a day at the pool, but with it comes the risk of Swimmer’s Ear: a painful ear infection caused by lingering water in the ear canal. When water isn’t removed from the ear, bacteria can grow causing irritation and inflammation. The longer it goes untreated, the more painful it can get. To help you avoid this nuisance and keep the fun going all summer long, we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to help you avoid Swimmer’s Ear and keep you and your family healthy and happy!
How Do I Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?
The number one way to prevent Swimmer’s Ear is to get the water OUT! If you feel or hear sloshing in your ear, that’s water trapped in your ear canal that needs to be removed right away! There are several methods for doing this:
Before you even get in the pool, you can wear earplugs to protect your ears from water. However, earplugs are only effective if they fit correctly! Poorly fitting or hard earplugs can scratch your ear and cause infection. Soft earplugs that mold to your ear shape are best. If you use this kind, make sure to dry them properly or bacteria can grow and cause infections.
If you forgo earplugs and water gets in your ear, tilt your head in a way that points the ear with water inside downwards and jump. This is the most common method and works well with young kids. Once you feel the water leaving your ear, keep your head tilted until it drains completely. If that doesn’t work, try crouching down on the ground and shaking your head in quick, downward, snapping motions to force the water out. Just be careful not to shake too vigorously or you’ll have more than water in your ear to worry about! 🙂
Another method to remove water is laying down. This works best if you don’t use a pillow and keep your forehead and chin at the same level. If your head is elevated by a pillow, the water will have nowhere to go and remain trapped in your ear. This method isn’t the fastest, so try using it around bedtime.
If you don’t want to rely on gravity to get water out of your ear, you can always use ear drops. There are brands that have formulas made specifically for Swimmer’s Ear and are available at most pharmacies. If you don’t have any on-hand, you can mix 3 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part vinegar. Soak a cotton ball with the solution (or use a dropper if you have one) then, while laying down on a couch or bed with the affected ear facing up, squeeze the cotton ball to administer 2-3 drops in your ear. You will feel the liquid drip into your ear canal and as unpleasant as it feels, we promise it feels better than an infected ear!
What if you already have Swimmer’s Ear?
If you already have swimmer’s ear, see a doctor. They can prescribe medicated ear drops to get rid of both the water and bacteria in your ear. Sometimes using over-the-counter drops can clear it up, but they won’t do anything for pain so take a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory to help you cope. If you don’t feel any relief after a couple of days, it’s time to go to the doctor. The earlier you catch and treat it, the faster it’ll go away!
What Not To Do:
Do not stick any Q-Tips or scrape inside your ear when you have Swimmer’s Ear. Doing so can drastically increase the infection!
Don’t swim through the pain! Many people ignore their doctor’s instructions to stay out of the pool (anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks), but being exposed to pool water when your ear is already irritated can prolong the infection and/or make it worse which means more time away from the fun.
Healthy ears can mean the difference between having a blast this summer and watching all the fun from the sidelines. We hope our list of tips and tricks helps you stay in the summer mix!