How can I Treat Swimmer's Ear?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Swimmer's ear is an ear condition which is caused by irritation to the ear, allowing organisms such as bacteria and fungi to colonize it. There are a number of ways to treat swimmer's ear infection, ranging from preventative measures to ear drops. It is better to prevent the condition, if possible, since it can lead to more serious infections or hearing damage. If you suspect a case of swimmer's ear, it is important to go to a doctor, since bacterial and fungal infections require different treatments. A doctor can also prescribe more potent medications and painkillers to treat swimmer's ear.

Hydrocortisone cream can help with swimmer's ear.
Hydrocortisone cream can help with swimmer's ear.

You may have heard swimmer's ear called “jungle ear,” a reference to the moist, humid conditions with promote the infection. It is also formally known as otix externa, since it represents an infection of the external part of the ear canal. Swimmer's ear is characterized by extreme pain and a swollen, reddish ear canal. Tugging or scratching at the ear can make it worse, so try to avoid contact with the site of the infection, if possible. When you treat swimmer's ear, remember that your ear is vulnerable to the spread of infection.

A doctor will prescribe antibiotics and may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs or pain killers for discomfort due to swimmer's ear.
A doctor will prescribe antibiotics and may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs or pain killers for discomfort due to swimmer's ear.

The best way to treat swimmer's ear is to prevent it. Start by keeping your ears clean and dry. Make sure to rinse thoroughly with warm water after any aquatic activity, removing dirt, soap residue, and other sources of infection. You can use drying drops to dry your ears out quickly, or you can rinse your ears with a half vinegar/half alcohol solution to dry them out and create an acidic environment in which infections will not thrive.

Swimmer's ear is caused by irritation to the ear, which allows bacteria and fungi to colonize it.
Swimmer's ear is caused by irritation to the ear, which allows bacteria and fungi to colonize it.

Avoid scratching or picking at your ears, as this can create small cuts, making your ear vulnerable to infection. If your ears become too dry, as can happen when you swim a lot, use a dab of baby oil in your ears before swimming to create a layer of moisture so that bacteria cannot penetrate. You may also apply baby oil before sleeping, or hydrocortisone cream if your ears become dry and itchy.

Once an infection sets in, antibacterial drugs can be used to treat swimmer's ear. Typically, drugs take the form of ear drops, which treat the infection directly. A doctor may also suggest taking anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers to reduce inflammation and resulting pain; warm washcloths pressed gently on the ear can help with this as well. In addition, vinegar rinses can help to create an acidic environment which is hostile to bacteria. If the infection is fungal in nature, an anti-fungal drug will be prescribed.

A warm washcloth pressed gently to the can can help relieve the pain of swimmer's ear.
A warm washcloth pressed gently to the can can help relieve the pain of swimmer's ear.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon182376

I'm 17 and i got back from the beach. my ear is killing me! what should i do?

EarlyForest

I had heard that one of the best home remedies for ear pain, especially from swimmer's ear, is to mix equal parts of water, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide, and then pour it in the ear. Has anybody tried this, does it work?

galen84basc

How do the inner ear infection symptoms differ from those of swimmer's ear? Aren't they both usually associated with ear pain and drainage? How is an inner ear infection different, does it affect the ear tubes or what?

pleats

What are the best swimmer's ear drops? My son has started showing serious swimmer's ear infection symptoms (ear drainage, blocked ears, etc), and I'd really like to know what the best drops are for this kind of infection.

Thanks!

anon18632

what drug is used for a fungal infection in the ear?

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: