Note: If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of swimmer’s ear, make sure to consult your doctor. Use home remedies only as an adjunct treatment.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. It occurs in the tube that connects the opening of the ear to the eardrum. Medically, it is known as otitis externa.
The water left inside the ear canal after swimming, bathing or showering becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which is the main cause of an outer ear infection. It can also be caused by a fungus or virus but that is less common.
Other causes include aggressive cleaning of the ear canal, excessive use of headphones or a hearing aid, and an allergy or irritation from jewelry, hair spray or hair dyes.
Mild symptoms of swimmer’s ear include swelling, redness, pain or discomfort, pus or fluid discharge, itching and muffled hearing.
Moderate or advanced progression of the infection can cause severe pain in the face, head or neck along with more intense itching, more extensive redness in the ear, feeling of fullness inside the ear, blockage of the ear canal, swollen lymph nodes and a fever.
The infection is not contagious, and usually it is not a serious issue if treated promptly.
However, any delay in the treatment can lead to complications, such as temporary hearing loss, a long-term infection, deep tissue infection, and bone and cartilage damage.
For a mild infection, there are many simple home remedies that can help reduce the infection and allow the ear canal to heal.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for swimmer’s ear.
1. White Vinegar
White vinegar is one of the most effective remedies for swimmer’s ear. Its slight acidic nature helps fight the infection by cleansing the ear and removing traces of bacteria.
- Combine equal amounts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in a bowl.
- Lie on your side with the infected ear facing up.
- Use a dropper to put 2 or 3 drops of the solution into your ear.
- Wait 5 minutes, then get up and tilt your head to allow the solution to drain out of your ear.
- Repeat this remedy 2 or 3 times a day.
2. Keep Ear Dry
Be it ear discharge or a severe infection, it is important to keep your ear as dry as possible. Any moisture in the ear will serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. To fight the infection, it is important to keep the growth of bacteria in check.
- After exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing, dry your ears thoroughly with a soft towel or cloth. Tilt your head to the side to help water drain out of your ear canal.
- You can also use a blow dryer to dry your ears. Put the blow dryer on the lowest setting and hold it at least 1 foot away from the ear.
- To prevent getting water in your ear canals when bathing, coat 2 cotton balls with petroleum jelly and put 1 in each of the outer ears.
3. Warm Compresses
If there are signs of pus formation or fluid discharge from the infected ear, try warm compresses. The heat will promote the flow of fluid and ease the pain.
- Soak a washcloth in hot water and wring out the excess water. Put the moist washcloth over the infected ear for 2 minutes, then tilt your head to promote fluid drainage. Take a break for 10 minutes and repeat the process as needed.
- Alternatively, put a heating pad wrapped in a towel on your bed. Lie down and put the infected ear on this heating pad for a few minutes at regular intervals.
4. Hydrogen Peroxide
Another effective remedy that you can try at home is hydrogen peroxide. This natural antibacterial agent helps dry out the fluid in the ear and eliminate the infection.
- Get 3 percent hydrogen peroxide from the market.
- Lie down and use a dropper to put 3 or 4 drops of it into the affected ear.
- Remain in that position for a couple of minutes.
- Then, tilt your head to allow the fluid to drain out of your ear.
- Repeat this remedy a couple of times a day.
Garlic is a good remedy to fight off ear infections. Its antimicrobial properties and natural pain-relieving qualities help kill the bacteria responsible for the infection and reduce the pain associated with it.
- Crush a few garlic cloves and add them to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the oil until the garlic turns brown. Strain it and allow the oil to cool. Put 2 to 4 drops of this oil in the infected ear. Do this once or twice a day.
- Also, consume 2 to 3 raw garlic cloves daily to speed up the healing process.
Note: Do not use this garlic oil if fluid is draining from your ear.
6. Breast Milk
The use of breast milk is a popular remedy for ear infections. The natural antibodies in it help fight the infection quickly. It also alleviates swelling and pain.
- Lie down on your side with the infected ear facing upward.
- Using a dropper, put a few drops of breast milk into the infected ear.
- Wait for a couple of minutes, then tilt your head to drain out excess fluid.
- Repeat every few hours as needed.
7. Onion Juice
According to Ayurveda, onion juice is a good treatment option. The juice acts as an effective disinfectant and provides relief from pain within a short time after use.
- Extract the juice of 1 small onion.
- Heat the juice in the microwave for a few seconds.
- Put 2 or 3 drops of this warm juice into the infected ear.
- Wait 5 minutes, then tilt your head to drain out the fluid.
- Use this remedy 2 or 3 times a day.
8. Holy Basil
Another good Ayurvedic remedy is holy basil. Its antibiotic nature helps fight the infection and provides relief from pain. It is also good at treating fluid discharge.
- Extract the juice of 4 or 5 basil leaves.
- Heat the juice slightly so it is lukewarm.
- Lie down and use a dropper to put 2 or 3 drops into the infected ear.
- Wait 5 minutes, then tilt your head to allow the fluid to drain out.
- Repeat the process twice daily.
9. Avoid Phlegm-Producing Foods
To reduce pus and fluid discharge, it is important to keep an eye on your diet and eliminate phlegm-producing foods. Such foods may worsen the condition and delay the healing process.
Some of the phlegm-producing foods are milled rice, rye, barley, sugar, lentils, milk, yogurt, cheese, bananas, corn, cabbage and potatoes. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
Try to eat more foods that help relieve phlegm, such as garlic, celery, onions, parsley, leafy greens, berries, broccoli and bell peppers.
Also, include omega-3 fatty acid rich foods like fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts in your diet to help reduce inflammation accompanying the infection.
Humidifiers can help a lot when suffering from ear infections as well as upper respiratory tract infections.
Low humidity may aggravate a middle ear infection by causing nasal swelling and reducing ventilation of the Eustachian tube. This may increase fluid secretion.
To help reduce this problem, place a humidifier in your bedroom. A cool mist humidifier is recommended, also for your home or office.
You can get a portable humidifier that can easily be moved from room to room.
- To keep your ears dry and prevent further irritation, it is important to refrain from swimming and other underwater sports until you get rid of the infection completely.
- Do not use earplugs, hearing aids or headphones during treatment.
- Do not put foreign objects, such as a cotton swab, paper clip or hair pin, in your ear to dig out earwax.
- Be careful when using hair sprays and hair dyes, as the chemicals in them can irritate your ears.
- If you love swimming, consider wearing earplugs and make sure to dry your ears with a towel or a hair dryer on a low setting after a swimming session.
- If water has entered your ear, turn your head from side to side to help it drain out.
- Avoid swimming in pools where there may be a high bacterial content.