3 Natural Remedies for Swimmer's Ear

swimmer's ear
Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
In This Article

Swimmers' ear can easily put a damper on fun in the water. An infection of the ear canal also known as acute otitis externa, this common condition can cause pain, inflammation, swelling, itching, and drainage of fluid from the ears. Generally, swimmer's ear is treated with prescription ear drops.

To help fight swimmer's ear, consider using these three natural remedies.

Garlic Oil Drops

A natural bacteria-fighter also helpful in staving off colds and boosting heart health, garlic can be used in treatment of swimmer's ear in the form of garlic oil.

You can purchase garlic ear oil at health food or natural remedy stores. You can also easily make your own garlic oil by grating several fresh cloves of garlic into a jar with extra virgin olive oil. Let this mixture sit overnight. Then, strain out the garlic pieces so you are left with the oil.

Store the homemade oil in the freezer (for several months) or fridge (for up to four days) only. After that, discard. Homemade garlic oil stored at room temperature has the potential to grow the dangerous bacteria that causes botulism, so always make sure it's in the freezer or fridge.

To use garlic oil, get a dropper and place three to five drops of the oil of the ear. Then, plug the ear with a clean cotton ball. Lie down. After 10-15 minutes, get up and let the oil drain out of the ear. Repeat in the other ear if needed. You can use this remedy one to two times per day until your symptoms are relieved.

Do not to use this remedy if you have a punctured or ruptured eardrum (which you would already know from a previous diagnosis). Do not use if fluid is draining from your ear. You should also consult your doctor about using garlic oil in conjunction with standard treatment for swimmer's ear.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide (an antiseptic) may be able to kill some of the bacteria in your ear. It also has the capability to kill some of your healthy cells, as well, so when doctors recommend its use as a remedy, they recommend diluting it or using it for just a few days.

To use hydrogen peroxide, mix one of part hydrogen peroxide with one part water. Using a cotton swab, dip the swab slightly into the solution and then clean the ear canal. Do not penetrate the ear too deeply. Alternatively, you can put 2-3 drops directly in the ear and leave for a maximum of 30 seconds. Tilt your head to the side to help the solution run back out of your ear.

Heat Therapy

To lessen the ache of swimmer's ear, heat can help soothe the pain and inflammation. Press a hot water bottle covered in cloth, heating pad, or therapeutic heating wrap against the infected ear for five to ten minutes. A covered heat source will prevent burns, but you should also check in with your ear temperature every few moments to ensure it is not becoming overheated. It is safe to apply heat a few times a day. Sometimes a warm, damp washcloth can also provide relief.

Prevention of Swimmer's Ear

To reduce your risk of swimmer's ear, avoid water with high bacteria levels (like lakes or rivers), wear ear plugs and a swim cap in the water, and dry your ears thoroughly (with a towel or blow-dryer switched to the lowest setting) after each time you swim.

Vinegar and Rubbing Alcohol

You may lower your odds of developing swimmer's ear by making do-it-yourself ear drops to use before hitting the water. Mix one part white vinegar with one part rubbing alcohol, pour one teaspoon of the solution into each ear, and allow the liquid to drain back out. This can prohibit the bacteria that allow swimmers' ear to develop.

You can also do this after swimming as another precaution.

If you have a punctured eardrum, avoid this treatment.

Other Treatment

In order to protect yourself from a severe infection, consult a healthcare provider as soon as you notice any swimmer's ear symptoms. Your doctor will most likely clean out the infected ear and prescribe ear drops that help kill off bacteria and reduce inflammation.

A Word From VeryWell

If you're considering using natural remedies for swimmer's ear, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.