Q: Help! Both of my kids have swimmer’s ear. They are both in swim camp this summer so there is no way around being in the water. Are there any natural remedies for swimmer’s ear we can use to ease the itching and pain?
A: This happens every summer. There just doesn’t seem to be any relief from the heat without getting in the water. Luckily, there are natural ways to deal with the effects of swimmer’s ear.
Swimmer’s ear (Otitis Externa) is actually an infection of the lining of the ear canal. Contrary to the name, you don’t have to be a swimmer to develop swimmer’s ear.
You can develop swimmer’s ear from showering or bathing or playing in the sprinkler…anything that brings water into contact with the ears. All it takes is having water trapped in the ear canal.
The ear canal is a warm environment that, when kept moist due to exposure to water and the water being trapped in the ear canal, breeds bacteria and viruses. Those bacteria and viruses are the cause of swimmer’s ear.
The best way to deal with swimmer’s ear is to prevent it in the first place.
If your child is swimming or will be exposed to water around the ears, have him wear ear plugs to keep water out of the ear canal. When exiting the pool or shower, have him shake his head really well to help remove any water in the ear canal.
As soon as possible, apply warm air to the ear canal to dry up any leftover water. A hair dryer set on the lowest heat possible is a good tool to use for this.
If these preventative measures don’t work, here are some home natural remedies for swimmer’s ear you can use to combat the discomfort.
Garlic for Swimmer’s Ear
Garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties that make it an excellent treatment for swimmer’s ear. The best way to use garlic for swimmer’s ear is in organic garlic oil. You can either buy it online or at your local health food store… or make your own at home.
To make it garlic oil home, grate several large cloves of fresh, organically grown garlic into a sterilized jar containing extra virgin olive oil. Put a lid on the jar and let it set overnight.
To use the oil, have your child lay on his side with the problem ear facing up. Use an eye dropper to place a few drops of the garlic oil in the ear. After about 15 minutes, get up and let the oil drain from the ear. You can use garlic oil several times a day until the infection and the symptoms are gone.
Vinegar for Swimmer’s Ear
The acidity in the vinegar will kill the bacteria in the ear and help heal the infection. You can use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar but I prefer apple cider vinegar. I honestly haven’t found many problems it can’t help!
Let the vinegar come to room temperature if you’re like me and keep it in the refrigerator. Once it is room temperature, have your child lay on his side with the problem ear facing up. Use an eye dropper to place a few drops of the vinegar in the ear. After about 15 minutes, get up and let the vinegar drain from the ear. Like the garlic oil, you can repeat the process several times a day.
Another prevention tip is to use a few drops of apple cider vinegar in the ear canal after each exposure to the water. This can help head the bacteria off at the pass, so to speak, and keep the infection from developing.
How to Use Heat to Relieve Swimmer’s Ear
Heat can help dry the water in the ear and eliminate the moisture needed for the bacteria and viruses to breed. It will also give some relief from the pain caused by swelling in the ear canal.
Wrap a safe heating pad well in a towel and set it on a medium setting. Have your child lay down with the heating pad against the affected ear.
When it comes to natural remedies for swimmer’s ear, a layered approach can help. The heat method works really well in combination with either the vinegar or garlic oil remedy above.