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How do I Choose the Best Swimmer's Ear Drops?

By Jessica Reed
Updated May 17, 2024
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Commonly known as swimmer's ear, water trapped inside the eardrum can lead to a painful bacterial infection and can happen to anyone — even someone who hasn't been swimming. Swimmer's ear drops are the best way to counter this infection and reduce the pain. It's important for the person suffering from swimmer's ear to choose swimmer's ear drops with an antiseptic and an antibiotic in them. This clears away gunk inside the ear canal and heals the infection. Swimmer's ear drops should be fast-acting to reduce the pain within the first 24 hours of use and completely eliminate the painful infection within four days to one week.

Pain is the most common symptom of swimmer's ear. It may become so intense the person cannot work or even perform leisure activities. It's best that she lie down and administer swimmer's ear drops right away. Holding a warm cloth over the ear may provide some relief while the patient waits for the ear drops to take affect. If swelling and itching also occur, the patient should see a doctor who can give her a small funnel-like piece of equipment, known as a wick, to help direct the ear drops into the swollen ear canal.

When choosing the ear drops, the patient should check the bottle to see how quickly the ear drops take effect and what ingredients are included. It should have at least an antibiotic to kill the infection, otherwise the swimmer's ear drops will not work. Most over-the-counter swimmer's ear drops are sufficient, but the patient may have a preference about the size and shape of the applicator she wants.

Once purchased, the patient should ask a friend to help apply the ear drops according to the directions on the bottle or her doctor's instructions. Often, the drops are placed in the ear and left for several minutes before the patient is allowed to stand. She should place a washcloth or cotton ball over the ear to catch any drips from the liquid as it runs back out.

It is important that a patient does not take any other antibacterial medication while using swimmer's ear drops, unless her doctor specifically recommends it. The ingredients in the ear drops will kill off the bacterial infection without allowing the bacteria to build a resistance to them. Oral antibiotics, however, can create resistant bacteria if used too often. When this happens, antibiotics are no longer effective in fighting off a bacterial infections that occur in the patient.

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