How To Prevent & Treat Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear (aka otitis externa) is a common infection among kids, frequent swimmers, and those who damage their ears by overcleaning or cleaning with improper instruments. Read more about the symptoms of swimmer’s ear and how to treat it.
Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear starts off with mild discomfort and itching in the ear canal. You may see some slight redness inside the ear and drainage of clear, odorless fluid. Tugging on the ear or pushing the tragus (the little bump in front of the ear) makes it worse.
As swimmer’s ear progresses, redness, itchiness, pain, and fluid discharge increase. It can cause blockage of the ear canal resulting in muffled hearing. When left untreated, it can eventually generate radiating pain that affects the face, neck, and side of the head, plus swollen lymph nodes and fever.
What Is The Difference Between Swimmer’s Ear And An Ear Infection
Swimmer’s ear (aka otitis externa) is an infection of the outer ear canal while ear infections (aka otitis media) are infections of the inner ear.
With swimmer’s ear, the ear looks red and is itchy. Clear discharge is often present. Pressing and pulling the ear makes the discomfort worse. In contrast, middle ear infections produce pain that feels deeper in the ear and often worsens while lying down, chewing, or sucking.
Middle ear infections are most often associated with viral upper respiratory infections, so other signs of a cold are usually present. Middle ear infections can be caused by swimming in bacteria-infested water while swimmer’s ear can be caused by water left in the ear canal after swimming in clean water and/or by damage to the ear canal.
Prevention Of Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear is caused by a bacterial infection in the outer ear canal. It often occurs when water is allowed to stay in the outer ear canal for extended lengths of time, which provides the warm, moist conditions that bacteria thrive in. Keeping the ears dry can help prevent swimmer’s ear.
Ways to keep the ears dry:
- Tip head to each side to drain water from the ears.
- Gently dry the outer ear with a soft towel.
- Gently blow dry the ears if comfortable. Use the lowest setting and hold the blow dryer at least a foot away from the ears.
- Use alcohol-based drying drops in the ears (if the eardrum is intact). Alcohol helps water evaporate more quickly. Over-the-counter ear drops work well, or you can make your own by combining 50% vinegar with 50% rubbing alcohol.
- Wear earplugs or a swim cap while swimming to prevent water from entering the ears.
Excessive cleaning or scratching of the ear canal with cotton swabs, fingers, or other instruments can damage the skin of the ear canal and leave the ear more prone to infection. Avoid putting foreign objects into the ear. If there is an earwax build-up, check in with a doctor or nurse to help with removal.
Natural Treatment Of Swimmer’s Ear
Prompt treatment of swimmer’s ear is important even in mild cases. Avoid swimming and getting ears wet until swimmer’s ear infection is resolved.
For home treatment of mild swimmer’s ear, make sure that the ear is clean and dry. Apply infection fighting drops to the ear canal if the tympanic membrane is intact.
I recommend using Ear Relief & Resolve, which contains herbs that fight viral, bacterial, and fungal infections while reducing inflammation, healing tissues, and relieving pain.
Colloidal silver is an excellent second choice if you don’t have Ear Relief & Resolve. Colloidal silver will take care of the infection but doesn’t provide the inflammation fighting and tissue healing benefits of herbal treatment.
Oral treatment can help to resolve infections more quickly. Nature’s Biotic is a natural antibiotic formulation for kids or adults. Vitamin C and zinc are beneficial supplements if the infection was caused by damage to the skin. They accelerate tissue healing and fight infection.
See a doctor if mild symptoms of swimmer’s ear don’t start to resolve within 12 hours of starting treatment. Go to the emergency room if pain is severe, the ear canal appears blocked, and/or fever is present. Conventional treatment usually starts with a topical antibiotic and steroid, but more intensive treatment may be necessary.
Swimmer’s ear, aka otitis externa, is a common childhood infection that also occurs in adults. This infection starts with mild itchiness and discomfort of the ear and responds quickly to natural treatment if caught early. As swimmer’s ear advances, the symptoms worsen, and the likelihood that conventional treatment will be necessary increases.
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