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.

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  1. Sonia th

    I put swim ear medication in my ear every time I finnish swimming. The water stays in…. And I get one ear infection every summer!

  2. Stan D.

    I haven’t had swimmers ear for some time. I do use a home formula for drops. And it’s 45% alcohol, 45% vinegar, 10% glycerin. I also found (unverified) that if you swim in adult pools; no kids, you won’t get swimmers ear. I think this is because the kids tend to pee in the water and the chlorine doesn’t kill the bacteria immediately and it must circulate through the pool system before that happens. If I swim in a pool that allows kids I try to swim early before the little munchkins get in and do their thing. If there are diaper aged children, I don’t swim. I do an alternate work out; bike or run!

  3. P. B.

    Had many bouts of swimmer’s ear and middle ear infections as a child. After seeing specialists and enduring a lot of pain, the family doctor suggested a dropper full of Vodka for each ear after every swim. I never had another infection and continue to use this remedy 50 years later.

  4. T.S.

    I swim 5 days a week and suffer from swimmer’s ear. I have tried the half vinegar/half alcohol home made remedy and it does not seem to help me.
    After asking my lifeguard what he’d recommend, he told me to buy the Swim Ear product. I already had a fairly bad case of swimmer’s ear when I bought it. (on a side note, I had not wanted to buy it before , as I did not want to spend the money on something I felt I could mix up myself much cheaper).
    The product I purchased has indeed cleared up my problem wonderfully. I noticed it is just alcohol and glycerin ; but the alcohol is stronger than what I buy. (the swim ear brand has 95% alcohol and mine is only 70%)
    It does not list the glycerin as an active ingredient but I suspect it is an important part. So I think next time I will buy that and try again with home remedy, but with the addition of glycerin as you mentioned.

  5. jill

    My brothers and sisters and I were all on a swim team for most of our young lives. The swim coach had us get out of the pool and lie on the warm pavement with one ear to the ground. We counted to 60 (one minute) and then turned the other ear down. None of us ever had a bad ear. I did this with my kids: no swimmer’s ears. My father-in-law, who swam every day, used an eye dropper and put a couple of drops of vodka in his ears (a much stronger version of alcohol than recommended above :-)) but he never had a bad ear either.

  6. AA

    When I was training for triathlons I was told to mix a solution of alcohol, vinegar and glycerin in a squirt bottle. After swimming I would shake the bottle and applying a few drops in one ear, letting is sit for a moment or two and then tilting my head to allow the mixture to run out onto a paper towel. Repeat with the other ear.
    I did some investigating and found that the exact proportions varied from one recipe to another so I did about 45% alcohol, 45% vinegar and 10% glycerin (you can get glycerin at most pharmacies). The alcohol helps dry the ear canal, the vinegar discourages bacterial growth and the glycerin helps moisturize the skin. I believe glycerin also absorbs water from the air so it may add a drying effect in that respect too.

  7. Shari K

    I use the same solution in my grandkids ears after swimming in our pool, except I use a solution with alcohol and boric acid. No swimmers ear all summer so far!

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