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Protecting Your Ears When Swimming in the Lake

Updated on July 17, 2015
Fill a couple of these and put them in your kit. Great for large groups and youth outings at the lake. Available at most any pharmacy.\
Fill a couple of these and put them in your kit. Great for large groups and youth outings at the lake. Available at most any pharmacy.\

An Easy and Safe Solution to Protect Against Swimmer's Ear

Back at good old Lone Star Camp we protected our kids from swimmer's ear by putting two or three drops of a solution made of alcohol and boric acid. The alcohol was to kill germs and the boric acid was to make the ear the right pH to prevent pesudomonas bacteria, a common ear canal bug and various fungi from growing in your ears. We learned this trick from the legendary Bud Bradley, director of water safety services for the American Red Cross in East Texas and student of the even more legendary Commodore Longfellow, founder of the Red Cross Water Safety program.

The reason we didn't use Hydrogen Peroxide or plain alcohol is because these can throw off the pH balance in the ear and encourage the growth of some bacteria or fungi. Go ahead and add the boric acid or the vinegar for setting a proper pH balance. I make up large batches of the stuff and carry it with me to the lake in little brown dropper bottles like the one in the picture. You can get these at any pharmacy.

The formula is simple:

  1. Take one teaspoon of boric acid powder available at your pharmacy
  2. Add to one pint of rubbing alcohol (70% solution).
  3. Shake to dissolve.


  • Apply 4-5 drops to the ear after swimming


If the drops sting when applied, stop. Have your ears checked immediately. You have a cut or sore or open wound in your ear.

Alternate Formulas:

  1. Make a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol
  2. This recipe can be taken to your pharmacy and they'll mix it up for you:
  • Aqueous Solution: 8 parts of aluminum acetate solution BP with five parts purified water, freshly boiled and cooled;
  • Nonaqueous Solution: 2 percent acetic acid, in a propylene glycol vehicle containing propylene glycol diacetate 3 percent and sodium acetate 0.015 percent.


These formulas are provide for historical purposes only. I am not a physician, nor do I claim to play one on television. These solutions are not FDA approved largely because they are so cheap to produce yourself that there's no market and it isn't worth the cost of getting FDA approval. The author accepts no blame if you use this rightly or wrongly and get an ear infection, foot rot, shin splints, or disease of the spleen and/or gall bladder.


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