Post-lake swim hygiene (a.k.a. how to prevent swimmer’s ear and other yucky maladies)

As much as I enjoy swimming outdoors, I have to admit that it’s not always a pleasant experience. Unlike a swimming pool (well, unlike MOST swimming pools at least), the lake is not a sterile and antiseptic environment.

So at any given time, you might find some or all of these niceties in the water:

– Algae
– Pollen
– Bacteria (especially E. Coli)
– Viruses
– Parasites
– Fungi
– Mold spores
– Sewage effluent
– Heavy metals
– Pesticides
– Runoff from agriculture and urbanization
– Air pollution particulates

These water contaminants – whether naturally occurring or artificially created – unfortunately wreak havoc on our bodies if they’re allowed to remain in our systems for extended periods of time. When left unchecked, they can cause allergies, mild to severe ear infections (i.e. swimmer’s ear), sinus infections, and flu-like illnesses due to water-borne contaminants.

So while many of us do what we can to keep our beaches and swim areas clean and contaminant-free, we have to accept the reality that it’s impossible to completely eliminate these health risks whenever we swim in the lake.

But what we can do is mitigate their impact on our personal health.

Here are a few tips and techniques I use to stave off the effects of swimming in any outdoor body of water where any of the above contaminants might be present:

Pre-swim

Prior to entering the lake, I irrigate my ear canals with a solution containing 50% white vinegar and 50% isopropyl alcohol:

Post-swim

As soon as I get out of the water, I once again irrigate my ear canals with the vinegar/alcohol solution. When I return home, I immediately get in the shower and clean myself with an antibacterial soap. I also irrigate my nasal passages with a warm water solution containing 1/4 teaspoon of sodium chloride (salt) and 1/4 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda):

To administer the vinegar/alcohol solution, I use a small pump spray bottle. For the nasal irrigation, I use a neti pot:

I used to get swimmer’s ear and have sinus problems all the time post-swim. However, I’ve never had any problems since I started with this pre/post swim “maintenance” program. So feel free to try this out if you think it can help you!

4 Comments

  1. Teresa
    July 24, 2011

    Thanks for the information. We are taking a 3 week lake vacation. Last year we were there for 2 weeks and the last 4 days were miserable for my 10 year old because his ears hurt so bad. I will try this and let you know how things turn out! If you have anything else to add please let me know. We leave in a week.

  2. sean
    July 19, 2010

    Thanks – I have been having some terrible sinus problems after being in the lake – I hope your remedy helps.

  3. diver dave
    July 11, 2010

    I LIKE TO DRY OFF WITH A FRESH ROLL OF CHARMIN TISSUE !

  4. Michael Baber
    July 10, 2010

    Man… A good bit of information. Thanks for the 411…


Leave a comment