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Natural Treatment for Swimmer's Ear

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Updated September 24, 2012

What Is Swimmer's Ear?

If splashing around in the surf, pool, or freshwater is your favorite form of summer fun, watch out for swimmer's ear. An ear canal infection also known as otitis externa, swimmer's ear can cause pain, inflammation, swelling, and drainage of fluid from the ears.

What Causes It?

Ordinarily, your ears ward off infection with the aid of cerumen, a wax-like material that helps fight bacteria and dispels harmful substances from the ear canal. But swimming can flood the ear canals with too much moisture, overwhelming their natural defenses and leaving you more prone to bacterial infection.

In rare cases, otitis externa can also be caused by fungi or viruses.

Symptoms of Swimmer's Ear

The initial signs of swimmer's ear include itching, discomfort, and leakage of an odorless liquid from the ears. As the condition progresses, it can lead to worsened pain, excessive fluid drainage, discharge of pus, impaired hearing, redness of skin in the ear canal, and a feeling of fullness in the ear.

In severe cases, swimmer's ear may trigger extreme pain, swelling of the lymph nodes, and scaliness in the skin of the outer ear.

Treatment

In order to protect yourself from a severe infection, it's important to consult a doctor as soon as you notice any swimmer's ear symptoms. Your doctor will most likely clean out the infected ear and prescribe ear drops that help kill off bacteria and reduce inflammation.

Natural Treatment for Swimmer's Ear

To help fight swimmer's ear, consider these natural remedies:

1) Vinegar and Rubbing Alcohol

You may lower your odds of developing swimmer's ear by using a do-it-yourself ear drop before hitting the water. Just mix one part white vinegar with one part rubbing alcohol, pour one teaspoon of the solution into each ear, and allow the liquid to drain back out.

If you have a punctured eardrum, avoid this treatment.

2) Garlic Drops

A natural bacteria-fighter also helpful in staving off colds and boosting heart health, garlic can be used in treatment of swimmer's ear.

Be careful not to use this remedy if you have a punctured eardrum or if fluid is draining from your ear. You should also consult your doctor about using garlic oil in conjunction with standard treatment for swimmer's ear.

3) Heat Therapy

To lessen the ache of swimmer's ear without turning to pain-relieving drugs, press a covered hot-water bottle or therapeutic heating wrap against the infected ear.

Learn about other eye and ear remedies.

Preventing It

To reduce your risk of swimmer's ear, avoid water with high bacteria levels, adjust your swim cap so it doesn't trap water in your ear canal, and dry your ears thoroughly (with a cloth or blow-dryer switched to the lowest setting) after every time you swim.

Sources:

Hajioff D, Mackeith S. "Otitis externa." Clinical Evidence 2008 26;2008. pii: 0510.

Pai ST, Platt MW. "Antifungal effects of Allium sativum (garlic) extract against the Aspergillus species involved in otomycosis." Letters in Applied Microbiology 1995 20(1):14-8.

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