Germs that require a moist environment to survive can cause swimmer's ear. So if your ears are dry the germs cannot grow. Swimmer's ear is an outer ear infection that develops when contaminated water sits in the ear for a prolonged period of time. It's a common infection, that can be very painful but can be prevented. The following tips can help you prevent swimmer's ear.
1. Keep Your Ears Clean and Dry, Especially After Swimming
Thoroughly dry each ear canal after swimming or bathing. First, tip your head to the side until all of the water runs out of your ear, repeat on the other side. If necessary, you can carefully use a hair dryer on the coolest setting to completely dry the ear canal. Some doctors recommend using a few drops of rubbing alcohol in your ears after swimming or bathing to dry out the ear -- particularly if you have had ongoing problems with swimmer's ear. However, if you do this too often, and the skin inside your ear canal gets chapped, it can increase your chances of getting an infection.
2. Always Maintain Proper Ear Wax Hygiene
Ear wax (also called cerumen) plays an important role in preventing ear infections. Too much or too little ear wax can cause problems. Using improper cleaning methods such as ear candling can damage the ear canal and make it more prone to infection. Plus, ear wax repels water.
3. Wear Ear Plugs While Swimming
Wearing earplugs that keep water out of the ears while swimming or bathing can help prevent swimmer's ear. Pliable earplugs can be purchased at some doctor's offices or at many stores. Just make sure you get earplugs that fit properly and are intended to keep water out of the ear, (versus foam earplugs sold to keep noise out or equalize ear pressure).
4. Always Take Good Care of Your Skin
The integrity of the skin inside of the ear canal plays a big role in preventing swimmer's ear. Cracked, dry or otherwise impaired skin is an infection waiting to happen. If you have conditions like eczema, allergies, or seborrhea you may be more likely to get swimmer's ear. Make sure these conditions are treated by a doctor. Even if you don't have these conditions it's possible to have dry, itchy ears with flaky skin.
5. Consider Using Ear Drops
There are a few ear drops you can use to help prevent swimmer's ear. But, if you suspect you may have a ruptured ear drum do not put anything in your ears and see a doctor as soon as possible.
You should also avoid using ear drops if you have synthetic ear tubes, (also sometimes referred to as myringotomy or ventilation tubes), or if you have had any recent ear surgery. If you're unsure whether or not this applies to you or your child, the following article may help:
Ear drops are best applied with the help of another person. Lay down on your side so that your ear is facing up. Have them pull your ear slightly out and up to straighten out the ear canal, then put in a few drops. Continue to lay on your side for a few minutes after the drops go in to make sure they are absorbed.
It should be noted that any kind of ear blockage will make drops virtually useless. If you have excessive ear wax, drops will work best soon after your doctor has cleaned your ears out. However, avoid using drops immediately afterward as you may have small cuts or abrasions inside the ear canal. Do not try to remove ear wax yourself and don't use a Q-tip. You will most likely just pack the ear wax in and make it even harder for the drops to absorb.