Q: When I was training for triathlons, I was told to mix a solution of alcohol, vinegar and glycerin in a squirt bottle. After swimming, I would shake the bottle and apply a few drops in each ear, letting it sit for a moment or two, then tilting my head to allow the mixture to run out onto a paper towel.
I found that the exact proportions varied from one recipe to another, so I used about 45 percent alcohol, 45 percent vinegar and 10 percent glycerin. You can get glycerin at most pharmacies.
The alcohol helps dry the ear canal, the vinegar discourages bacterial growth and the glycerin helps moisturize the skin. I believe glycerin absorbs water from the air, so it also may have a drying effect. I had no trouble with swimmer’s ear when I used this remedy.
A: Over-the-counter products to prevent swimmer’s ear include Auro-Dri and Swim-EAR. They both contain 95 percent isopropyl alcohol and 5 percent anhydrous glycerin.
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The Mayo Clinic suggests a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and rubbing alcohol to be applied to the ears before and after swimming. Its ear experts recommend pouring in about 5 milliliters and letting it drain out.
Swimmer’s ear occurs when dampness in the ear canal allows bacteria to thrive. Moving the ear causes pain.
Thanks for sharing your tip on prevention. Another reader offered this: “I had many bouts of swimmer’s ear as a child. After seeing specialists and enduring a lot of pain, the family doctor suggested putting a dropperful of vodka in each ear after every swim. I never had another infection and continue to use this remedy 50 years later.”
Q: I have frequent if not constant headaches, possibly rebound headaches. I am now avoiding chocolate, cheeses and cold cuts. I drink lots of herbal teas and very little alcohol. I am sick of waking up at night with a splitting headache. I have to free myself somehow from headache medications (Excedrin and another with codeine). I need help!
A: Frequent use of headache medications (more often than twice a week) can indeed lead to rebound headaches that can be very difficult to overcome. It might require medical assistance to break free of using the medications that may now be contributing to the problem.
Q: My husband has psoriasis. His skin is dry and flaky, and he gets very bad patches that bleed. He has found that the sun helps heal his skin, but he refuses to wear sunscreen, thinking it will undo the benefits of the sun. I think it’s better to have bad skin than skin cancer. What do you say?
A: Dermatologists have been using ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis for decades. Natural sun exposure also works; it may be bolstered with oral medications (Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedicine online, May 15, 2014). Twenty minutes daily should be enough to keep the psoriasis under control without increasing his risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen is likely to block the benefits of UV radiation.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website: peoplespharmacy.org