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Swimmers Ear Home Remedy Symptoms, Relief and Prevention

Updated on November 15, 2016
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John uses Biochemistry and Physiology (PhD) skills to review health topics, disease prevention, home remedies for ailments & better health

Swimmers ear (also called otitis externa) is a painful inflammation of outer part of the ear canal (outer ear) suffered by swimmers, scuba and snorkel divers and surfers that can be treated and prevented via homes remedies to address the symptoms.

It is relatively common in young children and teenagers who spend a lot of time swimming or surfing. Up to 10% of the population may develop this condition in their lifetime.

Competitive swimmers and adults that swim regularly can be affected as well but many of these regularly use ear plugs as a preventative measures.

It can be made worse by fungus and other infections.

This article provides a guide to the symptoms of swimmers ear and tip for the many home remedies to relief and prevention of swimmers ear.

Water in the ear canal (outer ear) can lead to bacterial and fungus infections that causes swimmers ear
Water in the ear canal (outer ear) can lead to bacterial and fungus infections that causes swimmers ear | Source

Swimmer's Ear Symptoms

Usually, swimmer's ear is easy detected, easy to prevent and easy to treat in mild form with home remedies.

If necessary, people afflicted by swimmers' ear over long periods of time, or with fever or sever pain or swelling should visit to a health care professional.

Over exposure the water and chronic swimmers' ear can lead to narrowing of the ear canal and several serious problems potentially affecting hearing.

The common symptoms of swimmers ear are:

  • The most frequent symptom is pain and a sense of wetness, or blockage of the ear. Pain can develop gradually and get worse over or two days day or two. The pain usually is worse in one ear but can affect both ears simultaneously.
  • The ear canal may become itchy.
  • The outer ear may become visibly red, and in severe cases the ear canal may swell and almost shut the canal.
  • Fluid may discharge from the ear that is often foul smelling and mot imply water. Some fluid may form a crust at the opening of the ear canal.
  • Because of moisture or fluid buildup in the ear hearing may be affected hearing.
  • Dizziness, ringing in the ear (tinnitus) and vertigo may also develop.
  • Fever can sometimes occur and people with fevers or severe pain should consult a medical practitioner.

When to Seek Medical Care for Swimmers Ear

Seek professional medical care immediately in the following circumstances:

  • There is swelling of the ear and prominent redness.
  • The redness or swelling that extends down the neck or to areas surrounding the ear.
  • The person has any signs of facial weakness or double vision.
  • The person feels dizzy.
  • The pain or discomfort disrupts sleeping patterns.
  • Pain is severe and is getting worse despite home treatment.
  • The person has diabetes or some other condition that makes home treatment ineffective

What are the Causes of Swimmers Ear

The lining the ear canal and outer ear normally provides an effective guard against infection from fungi and bacteria, which is enhanced as the skin lining is generally slightly acidic. The lining also provides a barrier that protects against the effects of excessive moisture.

However, with prolonged exposure to water the ear canal defenses can get overwhelmed. Bacteria and fungi thrive in the moist and wet conditions and can infect the skin causing inflammation as the body tries to fight the invasion.

Any physical break in the skin lining cause by abrasion from cotton buds and other things used to try to dry the ear can provide a site for infection.

Excessive water in the ear canal changes the acidic environment of the ear canal, and allows for the invasion by fungi or bacteria or both.

Surfers may get sand and other debris in the ear which may cause abrasion.

Chemicals such as hair dyes, bleaches, and harsh shampoos may get in the ear canal and alter its protective properties. An infection develops leading to swimmers ear.

Generally, the inflammation is caused by bacteria or fungus or both, which complicates the treatment as different chemicals such as antibiotics are required to treat these different types of organisms.

Home Remedies for Swimmers Ear

Like most things prevention is far better than trying to develop it once it has developed into an infection.

  • Keep your ears dry by using ear plugs when swimming. Swim caps also help keep water out of the ears.
  • Dry your outer ear thoroughly after exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing with a clean towel .
  • Get the water out after swimming, diving or surfing and do not let water sit in the ear or fill the ear canal cavity. If you feel water in the ear canal after a dive, shower or a swim, try shaking your head to dislodge the water. Turn you head on one side and jump up and down as this will often release water in the ear, particularly if it black the canal
  • Never insert your finger or any sharp or hard object into your ear.
  • Add a few drops of one of the various over-the-counter eardrops, such as Ear Magic, Aqua Ear or Swim Ear after swimming or water exposure. This may help prevent or remedy the problem for people who spend a lot of time in the water. This is a good strategy for children who may be reluctant to wear ear plugs
  • As long as you have a normal eardrum and ear canal you can also use a homemade antiseptic remedy: In a small bottle, add equal amounts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol (or mentholated spirits). Then use a clean dropper to add a couple drops in each ear after diving bathing or swimming. The white vinegar kills the fungus and bacteria. The alcohol absorbs water and also helps kill fungus and bacteria. This may cause burning in the ear if there is severe infection which will require professional medical attention. The over-the-counter treatment drops are less harsh, but probably less effective.
  • Warm medicinal olive oil can be used to displace the water and often soothes an early infection.
  • Mix a few drops of white vinegar with water and add a few drops of the solution to the affected ear, with the help of a dropper.

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • unknown spy profile image

    IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

    that was a wonderful post Dr. Anderson. You have helped readers in so many ways understanding these ear remedy symptoms and prevention

  • Cyndi10 profile image

    Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

    Very informative.

  • dinkan53 profile image

    dinkan53 5 years ago from India

    Not only for swimmers, the shape of the ear canal and wax can also play role in otitis externa. Thanks for sharing this informative article with home remedies. Rated up and useful.