October 17, 2017

Over the counter “Swimmer’s Ear” drops are not the same as the prescription

By Ann Van De Water

Over the counter “Swimmer’s Ear” drops contain alcohol. The prescription is an antibiotic and does not contain alcohol. I learned this the hard way.

My daughter had been complaining of ear pain so I told my husband I thought she had swimmer’s ear and that I’d make a doctor’s appointment for her. 

“When I was little I just put drops in before I went swimming,” he said.

I had some swimmer’s ear drops already so I just put them in her ear, but she cried and carried on and said the drops really hurt.

So I took her to the doctor and was told Savannah indeed does have a very bad case of the painful condition (In fact, the doctor could barely see the eardrum because of the swelling from the infection). But he also said that after water gets clogged in the ear it can cause a bacterial infection and antibiotic eardrops would clear it up. 

I told her my husband had suggested over the counter drops, but that she didn’t tolerate them.

The doctor informed us that the drops at the store for “swimmer’s ear” actually have alcohol in them and are only for preventing water in the ear; such drops cause the ear to wick away moisture and should be used immediately after swimming in still healthy ears, but not before.

“Putting those in an ear that already has an infection is basically putting alcohol in an open wound,” she said.

Savannah would agree. 

So a few days of no swimming and a week of the antibiotic drops should clear things up.

(This post originally ran in the summer of 2011).

Ann is a former high school English teacher who is a now a stay-at-home mom to 10-year-old twin girls.

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swimmer's ear drops

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