A classic summer activity is a day at the beach, lake, or pool. You absorb some sun, enjoy snacks, socialize, and enjoy time in the refreshing water. When you spend a lot of time in the water, you run the risk of developing swimmer’s ear, which can make your enjoyable day take a turn for the worse.
What Is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear, Otitis externa, is an acute inflammatory condition that occurs within the tissue of the outer ear canal. This canal runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. The condition typically affects children, but adults can also develop the problem, which tends to result from swimming in lakes or oceans. It tends to affect the outer ear, but the inner ear canal can also become infected. The ears are very susceptible to infection because moisture and bacteria can get trapped inside, similar to nasal passageways. This is why long days at the lake or beach can put you at risk for swimmer’s ear. The constant wetness and moisture can lead to bacterial buildup and inflammation.
With swimmer’s ear, the affected person commonly experiences throbbing or general pain. Swimmer’s ear tends to affect about three to 10% of the population on a recurring basis. An additional two million people experience swimmer’s ear every year, which tends to last less than six weeks. Chronic infections, however, can last more than three months, but this is very rare. The most common symptoms include:
- Itching in the ear canal
- Slight redness inside the ear
- Drainage of clear, odorless fluid
- Irritation or discomfort that worsens when you pull on the outer ear
- Excessive fluid drainage
- Decreased or muffled hearing
- Increasing pain
What Causes Swimmer’s Ear?
Bacteria is typically the cause of the swimmer’s ear infection. Some people think that a fungus or virus leads to swimmer’s ear, but this is seldom the case. The infection happens because the ear’s natural defenses have been overwhelmed. You see, the ear has outer canals that keep them clean and protected. There is a thin, water-repellent layer of acidic film that lines the ear canal to discourage bacterial growth. The outer ear also helps prevent foreign things from entering the ear canal. Excess moisture in the ear, however, creates an environment for bacterial growth, which causes the infection. Contaminated water and damage to the ear canal can also cause the infection.
Although you can see a doctor to receive prescription ear drops to get rid of swimmer’s ear, there are natural remedies that may provide equal relief. Continue reading to learn which ones may help.
We feel the need to say that placing hydrogen peroxide in your ear is an interesting feeling, to say the least. Hydrogen peroxide does have antiseptic properties that may help to kill the bacteria in the ear. However, it can also destroy healthy bacteria, so you may want to dilute it by mixing one part hydrogen peroxide with one part water. To use, dip a cotton swab into the solution and gently clean the ear canal. Don’t penetrate the ear! You can also tilt your head to the side and drop three drops of the solution in the ear, allowing it to sit for 30 seconds before draining.
It’s a well known fact that heat can help soothe pain and inflammation, especially in regards to swimmer’s ear. Hold a hot water bottle, which you wrap in cloth, against the infected ear for five to 10 minutes. You can also use a heating pad or therapeutic heating wrap if you have one of those items. Apply the heat a few times a day until the infection clears.
Don’t Remove Earwax
It can be tempting to go into the ear in an attempt to remove earwax, but it serves several important functions. Earwax works to protect your ears from bad bacteria and helps to prevent moisture from accumulating. Don’t use cotton swabs inside the ear to remove wax, especially if you are prone to infection. If you feel that you produce more earwax than normal, consider talking with an expert about this to figure out the right treatment.
Garlic Oil Drops
Garlic exhibits antibacterial properties that may be beneficial in treating swimmer’s ear. You can purchase garlic ear oil at health food stores, but you can also make garlic oil yourself. Mince a few cloves of garlic and add them to a jar with extra virgin olive oil. Allow the garlic to infuse in the oil overnight and then strain the garlic. Use a dropper to place three to five drops of garlic oil in the affected ear. Plug the ear with a clean cotton ball and lie down on your side, keeping the plugged ear facing up. Stay in this position for about 10-15 minutes and then let the oil drain. Repeat twice per day until symptoms are gone.