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Diving WITH an outer ear infection

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba' started by vanderschmooz, Nov 24, 2019.

  1. vanderschmooz

    vanderschmooz Registered

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Florida
    Hi fellow divers and thanks for your time! Let me start by saying that I understand the causes and treatments of otitis externa, namely that getting wet is not recommended with OE. I'm looking for empirical evidence here, not opinions or judgements.

    This week I'm going to one of the world's premier diving destinations (recreational) and I just started getting the symptoms of OE. I'm a hull cleaner and always use Doc's Proplugs in addition to a hood, an after every cleaning I flush my ears with isopropyl alcohol. I've never had problems preventing OE, and I think this infection is coming from a small lapse in my normal post-cleaning flushing routine earlier this week.

    My question: has anyone here ever gone diving WITH an outer ear infection? Obviously a doctor wouldn't recommend it, but I don't mind having a slightly extended ear infection if I can do some badass diving for a day or two. Is there any increase in swelling/pain due to pressure at depth?
  2. Mike Walker

    Mike Walker Contributor

    Having dealt with this mid-trip recently the info I got (from doc on Bonaire) was:
    1) with medication it should be mostly cleared up in 2 days (and he was right to the extent of no longer being painful) though I did also follow through with the full 10 days of eardrops.
    2) there was no explicit 'don't dive' but more of a 'you should probably hold off a couple days, but up to you'.
    3) if you do dive make sure to use the medication immediately after every dive.

    The day or two before I figured out what the problem was (pain was mainly exhibiting in my jaw, not my ear) I was diving with the infection and did not find the diving to have any effect.

    I also found that for the first couple days after things getting really painful it took some effort to get the medication in deep - 15 minutes on side tilting head around. After 2 - 3 days things were much simpler. It was also pretty clear from the research I did for a solution that the medication path was much more effective than the waiting it out and/or typical preventative eardrops path.

    So... that was my experience.
    You'll probably be better off talking to a doctor on this one ASAP... at least to get a prescription.
    (and I say this as someone who has avoided leech purveyors for many, many years)
    vanderschmooz likes this.
  3. glennster

    glennster Registered

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: illinois
    i have dove several times with an outer ear infection in the past. yeah, it sucks, but if you are traveling overseas on a dive trip it kinda makes the trip frustrating to say the least. if you want to try something my old family doctor recommended ( he is also a diver) mix half isopropyl alcohol with half distilled white vinegar and give each ear a squirt every time you get out of the water. the bacteria that causes the ear infection thrives in a base environment such as in the ear canal. the vinegar make it acidic. if you do get an oe infection the vinegar may clear it up in a few days. also, do not clean your ear canals with a q tip. the. thin layer of wax helps to prevent infection.
    chillyinCanada and vanderschmooz like this.
  4. DogDiver

    DogDiver Contributor

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Branford, Florida
    When you called DAN, what did they say?
  5. uncfnp

    uncfnp Solo Diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: North Carolina
    I honestly doubt DAN would advise anything beyond evaluation and treatment, which I am sure the op already knows he should do. He’s asking for advise from fellow divers, not medical advise.
  6. Subcooled

    Subcooled Assistant Instructor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Finland
    Keep the ear dry?
    Dry hoods exist but they are not available for rent.
    The ancient greeks used sponges tied over their ears (note that they both compress and hold air).

    I am not a doctor, and whatever you do, you die alone :D
  7. Seaweed Doc

    Seaweed Doc MSDT ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Seattle, Washington State, USA
    There are pressure-compensating ear plugs. My LDS sells them.
  8. melanie.

    melanie. Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ontario, Canada

    Start the drops now. Should be fine enough by then.

    Can't be any worse then diving through the start of an infection until finally giving in and seeing a doc. Which I know I have done... many times until I learned alcohol/vinegar after doing multiple dives

    That being said.. re read quote above lol
  9. vanderschmooz

    vanderschmooz Registered

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Florida
    Just to cap the thread, here's an update following my trip.

    -I had no change in pain from diving deep (I went to 130ft)
    -Go to a doctor and get eardrops, and antibiotics too if it's more internal than regular otitis externa
    -I bought some Hydro Seals earplugs and used them on the trip. No complaints
  10. Eyegore

    Eyegore ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Keyboard
    I've had an otitis externa infection going on since December. The condition remained mild until the dive last weekend. Then pain returned and much worse than it had been. Hearing in the affected ear became muffled due to yellow fluid discharge. I started prescription drops Tuesday night and today things have begun to settle down. Best of luck to you.

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