Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa is an infection that affects the tube that links the eardrum with the opening of the ear. The water that is left inside the ear canal after bathing, swimming or showering becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to the outer ear infection. Other causes might include a virus or fungus infection, excessive use of a hearing aid or headphones, aggressive cleaning of the ear canal or irritation or allergy from hair spray, jewelry or hair dyes.
The symptoms of swimmer’s ear include redness, swelling, fluid or pus discharge, pain or discomfort, muffled hearing and itching. If it’s left untreated, it causes severe pain in the head, face or neck, more intense itching, blockage of the ear canal, fever and swollen lymph nodes. Without adequate treatment, the infection can lead to complications such as deep tissue infection, temporary hearing loss or even bone and cartilage damage.
If you suffer from a mild infection you can try these simple home remedies.
- Keep the Ear Dry
You have to remove all moisture from the ear to eliminate the breeding ground for bacteria. After you swim or take a bath, dry your ears with a soft cloth or towel. You can use a blow dryer on the lowest setting but keep it at least one foot away from the ear. If you want to prevent water from getting into your ears, use cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly.
- White Vinegar
The acidic nature of white vinegar will help fight the infection, removing bacteria and cleansing the ear. Take a bowl and combine equal amounts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Lie on a side with the infected ear facing up and pour 2-3 drops of the solution into the ear. Wait five minutes then tilt your head so that the solution can drain out. Repeat 2-3 times a day.
- Warm Compresses
If you also experience fluid or pus discharge from the infected ear, try to ease the pain and promote the flow of fluid with warm compresses. Soak a towel or cloth in hot water, wring out the excess water and place the compress over the infected ear. Leave it on for two minutes then tilt your head to drain the fluid. Repeat the process after 10 minutes.
Garlic has natural pain-relieving and antimicrobial properties that can kill the bacteria inside the ear. Mix a few crushed garlic cloves with two tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the oil until the garlic turns brown, then strain it and let it cool. Put 2-4 drops of the oil into the infected ear. Repeat twice a day. Do not use garlic oil if you have fluid draining from the ear.
- Onion Juice
Onion juice is also an effective treatment as it is a powerful disinfectant and it also provides relief from pain. Take a small onion and extract its juice, then heat it in the microwave for a few seconds. Put 2-3 drops into the infected ear and wait five minutes. Tilt your head to drain the fluids. Repeat 2-3 times a day.
These are only some of the natural remedies that you can use to treat swimmer’s ear. But if the symptoms do not disappear or if they worsen, you should see an ENT specialist.