Health Watch - Summer Vacation: 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 enjoying your summer vacation or long holiday weekend. A fun afternoon at the lake, beach or swimming pool could lead to pain or discomfort later.

Swimmer’s ear is an ear infection that occurs when water mixes with ear wax, creating an ideal growth medium for bacteria in a dark, closed environment like the ear. Dr. Barbara Schultz, an otolaryngologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says antibiotics for treating the painful infection are more expensive than prevention. You can prevent the infection by using over-the-counter eardrops or a mix of half white vinegar, half rubbing alcohol after you leave the water. This mixture helps dry any water remaining in the ear canal. People who have tubes in their ears or damaged eardrums shouldn’t use these solutions, and they should talk to their doctor before going swimming.

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June 2011

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