Swimmers ear is an infection that develops in the outer ear canal when water gets trapped in the ear. It leads to the development of bacterial and fungal infection. The disease is named as swimmers ears as it is experienced mostly by the swimmers, but it can happen to anyone even during a normal shower. Its medical name is ‘otitis externa’ (1). Other factors that may be responsible for the disease are excessive cleaning of the ear, the contact with chemicals present in the hair spray or hair dye, a cut into the skin or other skin conditions like eczema affecting the ear canal. The symptoms of this disease include vertigo, dizziness, itching, swelling, and redness. Swimmers ear is generally a minor infection, but negligence in its treatment may result in serious damage to the underlying bones and cartilage (2). Swimmers ear needs to be cured before it interferes with your hearing process. If you are also facing such a problem, then scroll down to view the effective swimmers ear homemade remedies to treat and alleviate the pain caused by the infection. By following these home remedies, the condition must improve within a few days. But if it does not, consult a doctor.
Home Remedies for Swimmers Ear
1. Vinegar and Water
Vinegar is an effective swimmers ear treatment (3). Rinsing with vinegar restores the natural pH of the ear and reduces swelling. Combine a tsp of white vinegar with the equal amount of water and pour it into each ear. Hold the ear with a cotton ball, if the pain is not too bad. Let the mixture stay in your ear for 5 minutes. After that, drain the mixture by turning your head to either side.
1) Do not use undiluted vinegar as it is too much acidic and can cause irritation.
2) Do not perform the remedy if you have a hole in the ear or have ear tubes.
2. Vinegar and Alcohol
This mixture is a great swimmers ear home remedy. Alcohol dries the excess moisture from the ear whereas white vinegar makes the ear, less favorable for the growth of bacteria (4). Mix a tsp of vinegar and rubbing alcohol and put a few drops of this liquid in both the ears. At the completion of 5 minutes, turn your head on both the sides to drain the liquid.
Alternatively, you can use pure alcohol. A few drops of alcohol into the ears makes a potent treatment. You can use any brandy or whiskey for the purpose. Dip a clean cotton ball into the alcohol and rub it gently on the ears. The alcohol evaporates the water and helps you get rid of bacteria causing infection.
3. Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil consists of antioxidant and antimicrobial properties due to the presence of phenolic compounds (5). It lubricates and brings softness to the ears. These properties can be magnified by the addition of little garlic to it. Grate some garlic cloves and dip them in the oil overnight. Strain the mixture next morning and put 3 drops of it in both the ears.
- Alternatively, you can add lavender or vitamin E oil to this oil as they kill the bacteria and soothe the ear. Dribble 5 drops of this oil mixture into your ear. Repeat the process thrice a day.
Note: Do not use olive oil if you have perforated ear drums or have drainage plugs in your ears.
4. Heat Therapy
Place something warm near your ear. The warmth will provide a soothing effect to your ears, and bring a relief from the pain. This remedy can be practiced for any kind of ear infections (6). Follow the instructions below to get rid of the swimmers ears.
(i) Heat some salt in a bowl.
(ii) Wrap the salt in a soft cotton cloth.
(iii) Place the salt cloth on your ear like a pillow.
- Or, you can wrap a hot water bottle in place of salt cloth or a heating pad would work.
Note: Do not go to sleep with the heating pad placed on the ear as it may burn you.
5. Mineral Oil
It is a great remedy to battle out swimmers ear. Mineral oil is mainly effective in the case of external ear injuries. It loosens the ear wax and protects the inner lining of your ear canal. Along with that, it sheds excess water from the ears. Put a few drops of mineral oil into the ear to reduce the chances of bacterial growth and to soothe the infectious ear (7).
Garlic is antimicrobial and antiseptic in nature that makes it a strong weapon against ear infections. It can be used in various ways for treating the infection. Garlic cloves can be mashed and placed on the ear for 30 minutes, wrapped in a cotton cloth. Cook these cloves in a teaspoon of mustard oil for a minute, and this oil can be poured into the ears to alleviate the pain.
- Alternatively, garlic oil can be used which is a natural painkiller. It consists of allicin (8) which makes it antibacterial. The vegetable is a boon for health as it aids in boosting immunity and fastens the healing process.
7. Hydrogen Peroxide
This method is very effective. The chemical is antibacterial in nature and is safe to be used. Hydrogen peroxide restores the normal pH of the ears and kills the bacteria responsible for the infection. Put a few drops of 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide into your ears for the removal of ear wax (9). The solution would bubble inside the ear. Let it stay for a few minutes and then drain the liquid by tilting your head.
Note: People having a crack in the ear should consult a doctor before using the chemical.
8. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (10) that help treat an ear infection. Medium chain fatty acids present in the oil destroy the bacteria, fungi, viruses, and yeast. It helps drain excess water from the ears easing the pain. Warm 20ml of coconut oil and pour it drop by drop in the ears. Now, move your head in the direction in which oil has been poured. You will notice the water coming out of your ear.
- Alternatively, 2-3 cloves of garlic can be added to the coconut oil and cooked for 5 minutes.
Note: Ones who are cold places should avoid using coconut oil as the oil may solidify. Instead, they must opt for mustard oil.
9. Blow Dry
Swimmers ears can be cured by drying out the excess water from the ear (11). In the absence of moisture, the bacteria won’t multiply or grow further. A hairdryer can be found in everyone’s house. You just need to blow dry your ears from a distance of 12 inches at a low setting. This would absorb the excess moisture from the ears.
Note: Do not bring the dryer much close to your ears as it could burn or damage the ears or hair.
10. Baby Oil
Baby oil is an effective and safe method to be used for curing swimmers ears. It is used for curing earwax blockages (12). Warm the oil and pour a few drops into the ear. The warmth of the oil alleviates the pain and cures the infection. Apply the oil into the ears before going for a swim. This will not let the water stay in ears.
11. Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver possesses antimicrobial properties. It contains small particles of silver suspended in the liquid. It acts as antifungal, anti viral and is safe for humans to use. Colloidal silver does not kill the bacteria like the antibiotics, but it suffocates them by adhering to their cell walls and inhibits their enzyme production. The suspension is a powerful natural antibiotic that cures many diseases like cholera, hay fever, mouth, eyes, and ear infections (13). Colloidal silver should not be used in large quantities as that destroys an essential bacteria found in the ear canal. Put 3 drops of the colloidal silver at a time and let it stay for 5 minutes in the ear. Drain out the excess liquid by turning your head in the opposite direction. Use it twice a day.
Onion is advantageous to health. Its juice possesses certain elements that make it a great disinfectant. It decreases inflammation, and the antimicrobial properties soothe the infection (14). The juice gives a relief from the pain in a short time. Cut onion into two halves and warm it in the microwave. Lie down and put onion juice into the ear by squeezing the onions. Rest in the same position for 10 minutes, drain off the juice. Repeat the process after half an hour.
13. Apple Cider Vinegar
Get rid of swimmers ears fast by using apple cider vinegar. The presence of acetic acid in it (15) makes it antifungal and shields the body against any infections. Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water. Put 3-4 drops of the solution into the ears. Repeat the process for 3 days.
14. Mango Leaf Juice
Mango leaves are antibiotic in nature. Simply, grind 3-4 mango leaves to extract juice from it. Warm the juice a little and then let it cool to room temperature. Pour the juice into the ears with the help of a dropper. Repeat it 2-3 times a day and get relief from the infection (16).
Herbal Remedies for Swimmers Ear
15. Mullein Flower Oil
The oil alleviates the pain caused by ear infection (17). Dip the cotton ball in the oil and place it in your ears for 3 minutes. Repeat the procedure whenever you feel the pain.
Basil leaves have been used in the ancient ayurvedic system to cure infections and heal the wounds due to its antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties (18). Crush some basil leaves in order to extract its juice. Apply the juice into your ear and use it regularly for good results.
- Alternatively, you can mix equal quantity of holy basil oil and coconut oil. Dip cotton and rub it gently in and around the ears.
17. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a mild antiseptic and anti-inflammatory (19). It gives relief from pain. Mix 3 drops of tea tree oil, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a tsp of colloidal silver and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Warm the mixture and dribble a few drops of it in the ear 2-3 times in a day.
18. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has a high degree of antibacterial activity associated with it (20) that helps you get rid of any sort of ear infection. It heals the infection rapidly owing to the antiviral properties and brings a swimmers ears pain relief. Apply lemon balm at the infected place twice a day.
- Whenever you step into the water, wear ear plugs as that would guard you against developing any kind of infection.
- As soon as you are done with bathing or swimming, tilt your head on either side to drain away the water.
- When you go for swimming, cover your ears properly with a shower cap so that water does not enter into the ears.
- Put cotton balls into ears while applying a hair dye or hair color.
- Include food that is rich in vitamin A, zinc, and bioflavonoids that boost the immunity to overcome infection (21) (22).
- Avoid swimming in places with dirty water.
- Say a big no to cigarettes as chain smokers or people who are too much addicted to smoking are more prone to ear infections.
- Do not put foreign objects into the ear like any kind of sharp objects, fingernails or cotton- tipped swabs (23)
- Avoid intake of tomato, orange, fats, sugars, and dairy products that can increase the quantity of mucus.