First Aid: Ear Infections

Prevention

To prevent ear infections, after each dive, rinse your ear with either:

Fresh water

This will wash out the salt water. When the salt water dries, it leaves behind salt, which can badly dry out and irritate ears.

Keep a water bottle on hand with a narrow spigot to make it easier, but don’t squirt or force water inside your ear. Just pour it gently in, and only for a brief moment.

Home brew

A 50/50 mix of alcohol and acid (isopropyl alcohol (70%) and normal white vinegar). Just a few drops. The vinegar dissolves salt and kills fungus, and the alcohol dries out the water.

Pre-mix

An over-the counter mix, of alcohol and acid. For example, like Aqua Ear or similar. Don’t use too much at a time. Be aware that many drops are alcohol only, or are 95% alcohol and 5% glycerin to sooth. These are not good enough; the acid (vinegar) is needed.

Be aware: the alcohol will also dry out the delicate skin inside your ear, so do no overuse. This is why some has glycerin added.

Maybe use just once at the end of a day of diving – after having rinsed each time with fresh water.

If your ear becomes sore, discontinue use, and consider using oil, or seeing an ENT specialist.

Before diving

Oil

A bit of oil before you go diving can coat and protect your ear from drying out.  Ear shield is one option for over the counter. Some people swear by a drop or two of regular olive oil.


Plugs

Vented ear plugs, such as Doc’s Proplugs can help protect ears by reducing the water which gets to the ears, and stop protective earwax from coming out.

Cure

If you already have an ear infection:

Drops

Use a few drops of Soliwax, which is an anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, soothing wonder drug. A mix of Paradichlorobenzene, Benzocaine, Chlorbutol and Turpentine Oil. I keep this in my kit at all times now.

Otopain is an alternative to Soliwax. It is used to treat inflammation of the ear and otitis externa caused by bacterial infections . Otopain ear drops contain fludrocortisone, a corticosteroid, 2 types of antibiotics (neomycin and polymixin) combined with lidocaine, for local anesthesia.

Soliwax:
Benzocaine (2.7%w/v)
Chlorbutol (5%w/v)
Paradichlorobenzene (2%w/v)
Turpentine Oil (15%w/v)

Otopain:
Fludrocortisone acetate 5 mg
Neomycin sulphate 25 mg
Polymixin B 50,000 sulphate IU
Lidocaine HCl 200 mg

See a doctor

See a doctor. Don’t rely on advice from the internet, go get a professional opinion, ideally from an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist.

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