Q. My brothers and sisters and I all were on a swim team for most of our young lives. The swim coach

Q. My brothers and sisters and I all were on a swim team for most of our young lives. The swim coach had us get out of the pool and lie on the warm pavement with one ear to the ground. We counted to 60 (one minute) and then turned the other ear down. None of us ever had a bad ear. I did this with my kids: no swimmer’s ears.

My father-in-law, who swam every day, used an eyedropper and put a couple of drops of vodka in his ears when he climbed out of the pool. He never had a bad ear either.

A. With the start of summer, preventing swimmer’s ear is a high priority. Your approach has the advantage of being both free and easy, with no side effects.

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) can develop if the ears do not drain, because a damp ear may allow bacteria and fungi to thrive. At some point, this creates pain that is particularly acute when you wiggle the ear.

Eardrops such as Swim-EAR containing alcohol and glycerin can prevent infection by helping to evaporate water from the ear canal. You also can make your own eardrops. One reader reported: “I haven’t had swimmer’s ear for some time. I do use a home formula for drops. It’s 45 percent alcohol, 45 percent vinegar, 10 percent glycerin.” A more common formula is half alcohol and half white vinegar. Some swimmers find that customized molded earplugs can keep water out of the ears and prevent the problem.

Q. I took Chantix, and it helped me quit smoking. However, it had a load of side effects, enough to cause me to discontinue it after five weeks. I suffered with nausea, insomnia, leg cramping at night, intermittent heartburn and an unpleasant taste in my mouth. My dreams definitely were more vivid, though they weren’t exactly nightmares. I would never take this stuff again, even though I am grateful that I have quit smoking.

A. A number of people report that the stop-smoking drug varenicline (Chantix) causes insomnia. Some individuals also have nightmares.

A surprising number of medications can interfere with sleep. Some produce disturbing dreams, while others cause insomnia. Decongestants are common culprits and are found in many OTC allergy medicines.

You will find a list of drugs that can trigger sleeplessness in our “Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep.” This online resource provides do’s and don’ts for falling and staying asleep as well as information on nondrug options and sleeping pills. It is available online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q. I have been taking Zyrtec for several years on a daily basis. Anytime I go more than three days without it, I start to itch like crazy!

I found several articles on your website with people complaining of the same thing. My question is: How do you stop taking it? What is the best way to manage the withdrawal from it?

A. Hundreds of readers have written to us about this problem. Stopping either cetirizine (Zyrtec) or levocetirizine (Xyzal) suddenly may trigger unbearable itching that could last for some weeks. If you can stand the itching, it should ease up eventually.

A medical report on this phenomenon recommends gradual dose reduction or a short course of corticosteroids such as prednisolone to ease the itching during withdrawal (Drug Safety Case Reports, December 2016). Ideally, people would be alerted to this potential problem before they started such antihistamines, so the itching wouldn’t come as a surprise.

2018 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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