With the summer sun comes summer fun, and that might include a dip in the pool, lake or ocean. While it’s a great way to cool off, dunking your head in a body of water does come with a risk—getting water stuck in your ear. Water can get trapped in your ear canal from any exposure to water, but it usually happens while swimming. When it happens, most people report a tickling sensation in their ear that may extend to their jawbone or throat. It can also affect your hearing.
In most cases, the trapped water will drain on its own. But if it doesn’t, the trapped water can actually lead to an ear infection. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to get water out of your ear, fast—before an infection can happen.
This first suggestion is as simple as it sounds, and is usually the method people try first when getting water out of their ear. Gently tug on your earlobe while tilting your head in a downward motion toward your shoulder or shaking your head from side to side.
If you lie on your side for a few minutes, gravity might do its magic and help the water drain from your ear. Place a towel beneath your ear to absorb the water, and lie for long enough that the water can slowly drain from your ear.
The heat from your handy blow dryer may actually be warm enough to evaporate the water inside your ear canal. Make sure you’re using your blow dryer at the lowest setting and hold it about a foot away from your ear before moving it in a back and forth motion. Tug on your earlobe at the same time and try to let as much warm air blow into your ear canal as possible.
You can make alcohol and vinegar ear drops at home, or find hydrogen peroxide ear drops online. If you make your own, combine equal parts alcohol and vinegar before using a sterile dropper to apply three or four drops of this mixture into your ear. The alcohol may help evaporate the water in your ear, and the vinegar can remove earwax buildup.
Hydrogen peroxide, on the other hand, can help clear debris and earwax, which may be trapping water in your ear. Use these as directed, but avoid this method if you have any signs of injury or infection such as pain, swelling, warmth, drainage, bleeding from your ear. Always check in with your physician before putting anything into your ear.
It seems counterintuitive, but more water can actually help draw water out of your ear. Simply lie on your side and fill the affected ear with water using a clean dropper before turning over with the affected ear facing down.
In most cases, water trapped in your ear canal will evaporate on its own. But in order to avoid swimmer’s ear, it’s important to know how to treat water in your ear when it refuses to go away on its own. Try one of our five tips, and you’ll be back in the pool in no time.