Swimmer’s Ear Remedy and Prevention
Swimmer’s ear (Otitis externa) is a common ear infection within the ear canal, and it tends to be painful and interrupts clear hearing. Directly, swimmer’s ear can be caused by types of bacteria and fungi that are prone to growth in warm, wet biological environments — like inside the ears of kids who spend a lot of time swimming. When the ear canal is exposed too much moisture, the skin can get irritated and its natural protective barriers are compromised in such a way that bacteria and fungi find it easy to penetrate and grow, causing an infection.
However, you don’t have to be a swimmer to get swimmer’s ear. All that is needed is a small irritation on the skin within the ear canal, and an infection can take hold. A scratch or often cleaning too harshly, with a cotton swab, etc. can all create the perfect conditions for an infection.
Usual symptoms for swimmer’s ear include:
- Ear pain, which can be severe and intensifies when pressure is placed on the outer ear
- Chewing may also cause increased ear pain
- Frequently sufferers will experience itching, particularly before the presence of pain
- An uncomfortable clogged feeling in the ear also can be a precursor to pain
- Outer ear may appear red and swollen
- Discharge may appear, seeping out from the ear canal, either clear, cloudy or yellowish
- Hearing might be temporarily impaired as the ear is blocked due to infection
Natural Prevention of Swimmer’s Ear
Natural preventative measures for swimmer’s ear should be taken, particularly for children and even adults who often experience prolonged water exposure or if they have a history of swimmer’s ear.
Natural prevention for swimmer’s ear:
- Keep ears dry following exposure to water by using a towel on outer ears and turning the head from side to side to help water drain—you may even use a hair dryer on a cool setting to help dry ears after swimming
- Stay alert for information related to high bacterial counts in open waters such as lakes and beaches and avoid swimming in those waters when bacterial levels are high
- Keep outer ears clean by washing regularly and drying promptly
- Homemade preventive eardrops can be used before and after swimming: 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol promotes drying and prevents the bacterial and fungal growth. Drop 1 teaspoon (about 5 milliliters) of the solution into each ear, then tilt ear downwards, allowing the solution to drain back out (do not use if ear damage is present)
- Use drops of acetic acid or alcohol, diluted solutions found over-the-counter to help dry ears after exposure to water (do not use if ear damage is present)
- Use a shower cap while bathing and showering, covering ears, to prevent exposure to water
When to Contact a Physician
As swimmer’s ear is an infection and could result in hearing loss or other issues if the condition is left untreated or worsens, treatment for the condition should be conducted by a physician. Contact a physician immediately for any of the following symptoms: ear pain with or without fever, decreased hearing in one or both ears, or abnormal discharge from the ear.