How to prevent swimmer's ear

Published: May 24, 2014 09:00 AM

Having water stuck in your ear can be painful for grownups, too.

Q. I swim for exercise and often get water in my ears. How important is it that I get it out? 

A. It’s somewhat important. Having water stuck in your ears can lead to swimmer’s ear, a bacterial infection marked by itching, inflammation, and pain. To prevent that, when you get out of a pool, tilt your head to one side and gently pull your earlobes in different directions to help water escape, then dry your ears with a towel. Your doctor might recommend over-the-counter alcohol-based drops after swimming to prevent bacterial growth. If you’re prone to ear infections, wear a bathing cap or earplugs while you do your laps.

If you do develop an infection, you usually don't need antibiotics. Over-the-counter ear drops help as much as antibiotics, and they don’t cause resistance. Antibiotics are necessary if the infection spreads beyond the ear or you have other conditions, such as diabetes, that increase the risk of complications. If you do need antibiotics, antibiotic ear drops work better than oral antibiotics.

Looking to diversify your exercise routine? Read our latest reviews of home elliptical machines, exercise bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, heart-rate monitors, and more. 

Editor's Note:

This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health. 


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