Swimmers ear, medically known as otitis externa, is a common condition that causes inflammation (swelling and redness) of the external ear canal.
Otitis externa is also called “swimmers ear” because frequent exposure to water could make the ear canal more sensitive to inflammation.
Symptoms of Swimmers Ear
Symptoms of otitis externa are:
- Severe ear pain
- Itchiness in the ear canal
- Some degree of temporary hearing loss
- Pus from the ear or a discharge of liquid
What Causes Swimmers Ear?
Most cases of this condition are caused by a bacterial infection, however, the condition may also be caused by:
- Fungal infections
There are numerous things that could make you more likely to develop swimmers ear, including:
- Regularly getting water in the ear
- Damaging the skin inside the ear
Getting water in your ear is most significant, because this may cause you to scratch inside the ear, and the moisture also provides a perfect environment for bacteria to grow.
Medical Treatment for Otitis Externa
It’s important that you contact your doctor as soon as you notice some symptoms of otitis externa. The treatment generally includes cleaning of the inner ear canal, so the ear could heal properly. There are some medicines and eardrops that can help treat swimmer’s ear. Depending on the severity of the infection, your GP may prescribe a combination of:
- Antibiotics to fight off the bacteria;
- Acidic solutions to restore the normal antibacterial environment of the ear;
- Antifungal medicine, in case of fungus infection
- Steroids to decrease inflammation
These treatments can kill the infection-causing bacteria, however, they may not eliminate the discomfort and pain. Your doctor may recommend you to take OTC medicines, as naproxen, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for pain relief.
Home Remedies for Swimmers Ear
Natural remedies for otitis externa can help you reduce the discomfort and pain, and speed up the healing process. Following, you can find some of the best natural remedies for swimmer’s ear:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has potent bacteria fighting properties that work just about anywhere. Simply mix 2-3 drops of apple cider vinegar with 2 drops of plain water and apply the solution into your affected ear. This will reduce the itchiness and pain caused by the infection. For more severe infection mix apple cider vinegar with 2 drops of rubbing alcohol in order to reduce pain and speed up the recovery process.
- Garlic and Olive Oil
Garlic has powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is traditionally used for treating many health ailments as well as ear infections. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil into a bowl and soak 3-4 pieces of grated garlic in it. Leave it overnight and strain the next morning. Then, warm the oil a little bit so it can move throughout the ear canal easily. Apply 2-3 drops of the garlic oil into your affected ear. You will feel instant relief. Repeat twice a day for 3 days.
- Heat Therapy
Pour warm water into a bottle and wrap it with a thick towel. Place this on the ear. It will give you an instant relief. You may use a heating pad instead of a bottle, but make sure that the temperature is not very high.
- Mineral Oil
Mineral oil can be used to treat and prevent otitis externa. Just apply 1-2 drops of mineral oil into your ears before swimming to prevent bacterial infections, or apply 2-3 drops mineral oil into the affected ear, 2 times a day.
Nutrients for Swimmer’s Ear
Good nutrition, along with sensible supplementation could improve your treatment. An average person does not consume optimal amounts of all nutrients in their regular diet. Actually, scientific trials indicate that adults need to take supplements, especially if they are fighting potentially serious ear infections. Here are some essential vitamins and minerals that can help improve your condition:
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps your body fight bacterial infections. The average adult should take about 3000 mg of vitamin C a day in order to fight an ear infection efficiently. Increase your consumption of lemons, oranges, limes, strawberries, kiwis, papayas, bell peppers (yellow), guavas, broccoli, tomatoes, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
This mineral can stimulate the antibody production and white blood cells fight off infection. It’ also an incredible anti-inflammatory that helps release the pain of swollen glands, congestion, and sore ears that are usually present with ear infections.
In fighting ear infections, as a healthcare professional and of course, Your Health Tuber, I suggest you start with 70 to 90 mg of zinc a day.
- Vitamin A
It has been found to lower the rate of infections. Vitamin A is significant for the maintenance and repair of the cells that line the lungs, throat, mouth, and nose. Deficiency of this essential vitamin allows microorganisms, to easily penetrate mucous membranes.
In order to boost your immune system, and eliminate ear infections, I recommend 15 mg of beta-carotene or 10,000 IU of Vitamin A per day.
Warning! Vitamin A shouldn’t be taken in large amount by pregnant women because higher amounts are associated with an increased risk of birth defects.
- Other nutrients
Optional, but highly recommended nutrients for ear infections are selenium, B complex and vitamin E.
Note: While undergoing treatment for any condition, it is best to avoid cigarettes, alcohol, greasy food, and junk food as they can delay the healing process. Check with your doctor, before making some major changes to your diet.
How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?
It is not always possible to prevent swimmer’s ear, but you can decrease your risk of developing this condition.
Avoid damaging your ears:
- Do not put cotton wool buds or some other objects into the ears.
Keep your ears dry and clean:
- Try not to let shampoo, water, or soap get inside the ears when you wash them. After washing, you can dry your ears with a hairdryer on a low setting.
- Do not push the corners of a towel into the ears in order to dry them, because this can cause damage.
- If you swim frequently, use earplugs or wear a swimming hat to cover your ears.
When to See Your Doctor
You need to see your doctor if you notice any symptoms of otitis externa.
If you have recurring episodes of swimmers eat that have not responded to any treatment, your doctor might take a swab of the inside of the ear, in order to test it and determine the type of infection, so appropriate medicine can be prescribed.
Natural remedies, as well as vitamins and minerals, can help alleviate the symptoms of swimmer’s ear. However, they cannot cure the infection and therefore, cannot be used as a substitute for medicinal treatment. It’s also recommendable to check with a doctor before trying some of the above-mentioned remedies.