Otitis externa, acute external otitis or swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection that effects the outer ear canal, the section of the ear between the eardrum and the outside of the ear.
It received the name of swimmer’s ear because it generally occurs after swimming. As water remains in the ear, the ear becomes the kind of moist environment which bacteria prefer for growth. Swimmer’s ear can also happen when the lining of the ear canal is damaged by an ear bud or a cotton swab.
If caught early, swimmer’s ear can be treated at home. Early treatment usually prevents serious infections from forming. Early symptoms include an itching in the canal, slight redness, mild discomfort which worsens when the outer ear is tugged, and drainage from the ear of a clear, odorless liquid.
There are several home remedies that can be tried to treat swimmer’s ear while waiting for a physician’s appointment.
One remedy is to make and use hot garlic oil. To create this, soak grated garlic cloves in olive oil. The garlic should soak overnight. In the morning, strain the garlic out of the oil, retaining the oil. Warm the oil slightly to allow it to move through the ear canal easily. Using a dropper, place three drops in the ear. Garlic fights bacteria naturally, but make sure the ear drum is not punctured and that there is not any fluid draining from the ear.
Another remedy to help fight, or even prevent, swimmer’s ear is to mix a few drops of white vinegar and water, or rubbing alcohol. Using a dropper, place the mixture into the ear and then allow it to drain out. This mixture helps lessen the itchiness and the pain. This, also should not be used if there is a punctured eardrum.
Heat is another home remedy for swimmer’s ear, just make sure not to use while sleeping. Wrap a hot-water bottle in flannel or in a towel, and then place it on the ear. This can help relieve the pain of swimmer’s ear. A therapeutic heating wrap would also work. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin can also be taken to help alleviate the pain.
To help prevent the infection, before swimming place a small amount of mineral oil on the outside of the ear.
If the ear pain worsens, the external ear becomes swollen or very painful, if there is drainage that is not earwax, or if the discomfort goes on for more than a week it is important to get medical assistance immediately.
None of these remedies will cure the infection of swimmer’s ear, but they can relieve the symptoms until a trip to the doctor’s office occurs.