By Kathy Steinemann

Hawaii, the Caribbean, or on the beaches of Australia? Unfortunately, swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling often precede a condition known as 'swimmer's ear'.

Are you dreaming about a tropical vacation - perhaps in Hawaii, the Caribbean, or on the beaches of Australia? Unfortunately, swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling often precede a condition known as 'swimmer's ear' (otitis externa).

Very simply put, swimmer's ear results from water that gets trapped in your ears. Water usually has a near neutral or alkaline PH level. Since your ears require a slightly acidic balance, the introduction of water can change that. Trapped water encourages the growth of bacteria, molds, and fungi. Any variation from the normal acid balance may cause swimmer's ear in susceptible individuals.

If you are prone to swimmer's ear, visit your doctor before you travel. It might be wise to get an advance prescription for antibiotics or ear drops that have successfully cured your condition in the past. It is not always possible to see a physician if you are onboard a small sailboat or in a secluded area.

Pack some swimmer's earplugs. They are small, soft, silicone-based plugs that can be placed in your ears before entering the water (or going into the shower). They will also help to keep water-born debris and creatures out of your ears. Make sure that you clean the plugs meticulously every time you use them. Do not use the plugs during scuba diving or any underwater activities that will take you more than a couple of feet below the surface. Pressure changes could lodge the earplugs deep in your ears, or actually cause permanent damage to your eardrums.

Also pack a small hair dryer or portable travel-fan. These may be used to dry your ears whenever they get wet. (Do not try to dry ears with cotton-tipped swabs.) If you use a hairdryer, put it on the lowest heat setting. Make sure that you test it on a wrist first to ensure that it is not too hot.

Whatever you do, never swim or shower, and then go to bed with damp ears - especially if you plan to use earplugs to drown out the snoring of your roommates. The earplugs will trap the moisture and provide a wonderful, warm petrie dish for things to grow in. There are a few folk remedies that may be helpful if you cannot see a doctor for any reason.

Prepare a small bottle of rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) mixed 50% with white vinegar. Use an eye dropper or the tip of a clean tissue to carefully drip three or four drops into each ear - without touching the ear or any of the surrounding skin. Be sure to let the drops settle for about 5 minutes in the first ear before you tilt your head to the other side to treat the second ear. Tugging on the earlobe may help the drops to reach their target. The vinegar creates an acidic environment and discourages the growth of mold or fungi. Alcohol helps to kill bacteria and dry out the ear.

Other solutions that can be used:

• Plain white vinegar (also good for jellyfish stings)
• Plain white vinegar mixed with distilled water
• Plain white vinegar mixed with pre-boiled, cooled water
• Apple cider vinegar
• Lemon juice
• Warm olive oil
• Distilled water (which is slightly acidic)

Never use one of the above solutions if you have had previous ear surgery (including surgical tubes) or a ruptured/punctured eardrum. Try to visit a doctor as soon as you can if you suspect any kind of ear infection.

As a scuba diver, I have personally used the plain white vinegar mixed with rubbing alcohol and found it helpful. However, I am not a doctor. This information was gathered for my own personal use before trips to the Bahamas. Please print a copy of this article and take it to your doctor and/or pharmacist for approval before you try any of the remedies mentioned.

(c) Copyright Kathy Steinemann: This article is free to publish only if this copyright notice, the byline, and the author's note below (with active links) are included.

About the Author:

Searching for a bed and breakfast, hotel, or hostel? Visit 111 Travel Directory. Trying to find some great travel tips? Surf over to 1000 Tips 4 Trips. Article source: 111 Travel Directory: (triple one dot com)

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