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"Is there any way to prevent swimmer's ear?"
I'm a big time swimmer. Swim almost everyday during the summer in outdoor pools and in the winter at my gym in an indoor pool. Sometimes I get swimmer's ear. Is there any way to prevent it? Should I wear ear plugs and would they help me?
Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) is a localized infection of the skin of the external ear canal which occurs in a warm, moist area of the ear that is difficult to keep clean and dry. Treatment of swimmer's ear is often with prescription eardrops with antibiotics and/or steroids to treat the infection and inflammation. In general, prevention of swimmer's ear is not necessary because your ear normally secretes enough earwax for the protection by keeping the skin of your ear canal lubricated and healthy. However, when you swim frequently, you may lose some of this protective coating, leading to progressive inflammation, breakdown and infection. Wearing ear plugs during times of excessive water exposure can keep this from happening, although it is not good idea to use them if your ear is already infected. Another way to prevent swimmer's ear is to use isopropyl alcohol-based eardrops (a solution of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar) after excessive swimming or sweating. The alcohol in the solution dries the ear while the white vinegar makes it tough for bacteria that cause swimmer's ear to grow. Of course, this should not be overused (no more than twice a day), as it can be irritating. You should not use cotton swabs in your ears, which can scratch the ear canal and create a potential site for infection. I would suggest a visit with a primary care physician to receive treatment of your swimmer's ear and to address your concerns.
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