Swimmer’s Ear: Home Remedies and How to Prevent It

Summer season is marked by increased energy, good mood and countless fun activities, including the most fun of them – swimming. Although this activity is very fun and healthy, it still has its downsides and one of these is the condition known as the swimmer’s ear (outer ear infection).

What Exactly Is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is a type of infection of the outer ear which occurs as a result of moisture being trapped in the ear or some kind of damage to the skin of the outer ear, leading to inflammation and infection. It is very common in swimmers, hence the name, but it can occur in anyone.

Namely, since this infection can also be a result of some kind of skin damage of the outer ear, things like using cotton swabs or ear phones in the ear may make it susceptible to infection.

How to Differentiate Between Outer Ear Infection and Middle Ear Infection

As we previously explained, swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear, which differs from a middle ear infection. Infections of the middle ear are much more common, yet equally painful as the other type.

One way to differentiate an outer ear infection from a middle ear infection is to determine the type of the pain and where it stems from. An outer ear infection is characterized by swelling and extreme pain of the ear canal. Simply by touching the ear or sticking a finger in it you will cause immense pain.

Therefore, a simple way of determining the type of infection is to stick a finger in your ear – if it hurts, it is likely an outer ear infection, while if it is more internal and hurts when you swallow, then you are most probably dealing with a middle ear infection.

How to Avoid This Infection

As for many other things, it is always best to prevent them from happening than to cure them once they take place. Here are a few tips on how to avoid an outer ear infection:

Keep Your Ears Dry
Dry your ears well after swimming or showering, to avoid any moisture from getting trapped in them. If there’s any moisture left in them, bacteria will likely start to grow and lead to infection.

Don’t Remove Ear Wax
It is recommended not to remove ear wax, especially with cotton swabs and especially during swimming months, as ear wax can help keep bacteria in the ear at bay.

Alcohol and White Vinegar
Another way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to use homemade ear drops after swimming each day. This is especially meant for those who plan to swim in lake water, the ocean, or other places that abound in bacteria that may cause infection. Here’s the recipe:

¼ cup rubbing alcohol
¼ cup white vinegar

Mix the ingredients well and pour the mixture into a dark glass airtight container with a dropper. Use it every day, after swimming.

Use Ear Plugs
Yet another way to avoid infection is to use ear plugs. It is best to use moldable silicon ones as they can mold to the shape of the ear.

How to Cure Swimmer’s Ear Once It Occurs

This infection can be very painful so here we will offer a few tips on how to make it go away as quickly as possible.

Garlic in Ear
Make a poultice and use it on the outer ear overnight to relieve and reduce the infection.


First, crush a fresh, raw garlic clove and place it inside a small piece of sterile gauze. Next, place the gauze on the affected ear and secure it with some medical tape.

Essential Oils
Apply a mix of essential oils around the ear for pain relief.


Take 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix 5 drops of lavender essential oil, 2 drops of basil essential oil and 1 drop of peppermint essential oil in it. Rub the resulting mixture on the skin around the ear, behind the ear and on the neck.

Hot Packs for Relief
Heat will provide an effective pain relief in no time. Use hot water bottles, warm sea salt, or any other hot pack to relieve the pain.

If the pain still doesn’t go away after you’ve tried some of these remedies, we advise you to seek medical help as soon as possible.