Home remedies for swimmer’s ear
Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. It’s often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming, creating a moist environment that aids bacterial growth. Putting fingers, cotton swabs or other objects in your ears also can lead to swimmer’s ear by damaging the thin layer of skin lining your ear canal.
Swimmer’s ear is also known as otitis externa. The most common cause of this infection is bacteria invading the skin inside your ear canal. Usually you can treat swimmer’s ear with eardrops. Prompt treatment can help prevent complications and more serious infections.
• Keep your ears dry. Dry your ears thoroughly after exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing. Dry only your outer ear, wiping it slowly and gently with a soft towel or cloth. Tip your head to the side to help water drain from your ear canal. You can dry your ears with a blow dryer if you put it on the lowest setting and hold it at least a foot (about 0.3 metres) away from the ear.
• At-home preventive treatment. If you know you don’t have a punctured eardrum, you can use homemade preventive eardrops before and after swimming. A mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol may help promote drying and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that can cause swimmer’s ear. Pour 1 teaspoon (about 5 millilitres) of the solution into each ear and let it drain back out. Similar over-the-counter solutions may be available at your drugstore.
• Watch for signs alerting to high bacterial counts and don’t swim on those days.
• Never attempt to scratch an itch or dig out earwax with items such as a cotton swab, paper clip or hairpin. Using these items can pack material deeper into your ear canal, irritate or break the thin skin inside your ear.
• Use caution after an ear infection or surgery. If you’ve recently had an ear infection or ear surgery, talk to your doctor before you go swimming. SYMPTOMS Swimmer’s ear symptoms are usually mild at first, but they may get worse if your infection isn’t treated or spreads. MILD SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS • Itching in your ear canal • Slight redness inside your ear • Mild discomfort that’s made worse by pulling on your outer ear or pushing on the little “bump” in front of your ear • Some drainage of clear, odourless fluid MODERATE PROGRESSION • More intense itching • Increasing pain • More extensive redness in your ear • Excessive fluid or pus drainage • Feeling of fullness inside your ear and partial blockage of your ear canal by swelling, fluid and debris • Decreased or muffled hearing ADVANCED PROGRESSION • Severe pain that may radiate to your face, neck or side of your head, fever • Complete blockage of your ear canal • Redness or swelling of your outer ear • Swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck Contact your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms of swimmer’s ear, even if they’re mild. Visit the emergency room if you have severe pain or fever.