Q. Do you know of any good ways to deal with swimmer’s ear? I can usually feel it coming on (often after swimming in a lake or pond), but I haven’t been able to clear it up before it gets to the point where I need a doctor and some antibiotics.
A. Prolonged exposure to water sitting in the ear canal after swimming can make the outer ear more susceptible to this kind of infection. As you’ve noted, swimmer’s ear is more common after swimming in non-chlorinated water that may contain bacteria.
The key to preventing swimmer’s ear is to get the water out of the ear canal right after swimming. When you watch people tugging on their ears and tilting their heads to the side, that’s what they are trying to do.
In addition, a drying solution can help. One reader offered this:
“My cousins and I were in the pool all summer long while growing up. Every time we were done swimming, everyone would do the following to remove water from our ears:
“1. With an eye dropper, fill each ear canal with a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar.
“2. Let the mixture sit for a moment while massaging around the ear.
“3. Tilt the head and use a tissue to blot the liquid out of your ear.”
Do not use a cotton swab; scratching the lining of the ear can encourage infection. Pediatricians or family doctors often recommend this type of home remedy.