Helping to prevent ear infection

The diving has been great all week. Now, while sitting in your room, you notice that one of your ears itches and feels wet. You look in the mirror and don’t see any problem, so you go to bed. Next morning when you wake up, you feel a fullness in your ear and a twinge of pain. What a time for an earache! You wonder if you should cancel the day’s diving.

Your problem is probably otitis externa, a fancy name for an external ear infection sometimes called swimmers ear.


The Cause

Otitis externa (ear infection) is not caused by bacteria in the water: instead, it’s triggered by the bacteria normally found in your external ear canal.

With frequent immersion, water swells the cells lining the ear canal. Eventually, these cells pull apart – far enough for the bacteria normally found on the surface of your ear canal to get underneath the skin, where they find a nice warm environment and start to multiply.



Dripping an acidic drying solution into the ear at the beginning and end of each day virtually eliminated Otitis externa in their young charges.



2 percent acetic acid, water, aluminum acetate, sodium acetate and boric acid.

There are other preparations available over the counter such as Auro-Dri and Swim-Ear.


How to apply

The head is tilted to one side and the external ear canal gently filled with the solution, which must remain in the canal for five minutes. The head is then tilted to the other side, the solution allowed to run out, and the procedure repeated for the other ear. The five-minute duration must be timed with a watch. If the solution does not remain in the ear a full five minutes, the effectiveness of the procedure is greatly reduced.

From the U.S. Navy Diving Manual

Remember, this is a prophylactic procedure that should be started before the ear becomes infected – beginning it only after an infection occurs will not help much. One word of warning: Do not put drops in your ear if you have any reason to suspect you may have a ruptured eardrum from a squeeze. If you do, you may wash bacteria into the middle ear, where an infection can be really bad news.



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