Health Watch - Starting Summer: Swimmer's Ear

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about preparing for summer. Previously, we talked about safety at the swimming pool. Although drowning is the most serious possible consequence of water activities, swimming can lead to a painful – but easily preventable – infection.

Water mixing with ear wax in the dark, enclosed space of the ear creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. The result is an infection known as swimmer’s ear.

Dr. Barbara Schultz, an otolaryngologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the infection is easily prevented with an inexpensive over-the-counter solution or a mixture of vinegar and rubbing alcohol. These treatments dry up any water that gets in the ear during swimming and should be used when you leave the water. People with tubes in their ears or damaged eardrums should talk to a doctor about swimming and what they should do to prevent swimmer’s ear. Using these drops could be painful for them.

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May 2010


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