Swimmer’s Ear

Summer is quickly approaching which means more time in the pool and lake! Along with more time in the water comes a higher chance of developing Swimmer’s Ear (aka Otitis Externa). To keep the summer fun and free of ear infections let’s talk about prevention and treatment of Swimmer’s Ear!

Swimmer’s Ear is an infection that is localized to the external auditory canal and is common after swimming. Normally the body uses ear wax to keep bacteria away. Exposure to water interferes with the waxy barrier so bacteria can begin to grow.  Signs and symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear include pain with pressure to the ear, itching and possible discharge.

The goal in preventing Swimmer’s Ear is to prevent the bacteria from growing. Some of my favourite suggestions to prevent Swimmer’s Ear include:

  • Rubbing alcohol and white vinegar
    • Mix rubbing alcohol and white vinegar in a 1:1 solution. Add 1 drop into each ear after swimming. Lay on your side and pull your ear to straighten the ear canal. Put 1 drop into the ear canal and let it soak for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. This helps to prevent any bacteria from growing and causing an infection. Do not put any liquid in your ear if you have or think you may have a ruptured ear drum.
  • Mineral oil
    • Mineral oils can be used to prevent the development of Swimmer’s Ear by adding a protective barrier to the ear canal. Drop a small amount of mineral oil into the ear prior to swimming. Do not put any liquid in your ear if you have or think you may have a ruptured ear drum.
  • Keep ears dry
    • Water is the main culprit when it comes to Swimmer’s Ear. Be sure to shake head to the side to clear water from ears after swimming. A hair dryer can also be used to dry ears after swimming. This reduces the exposure to bacteria and allows the waxy coat in your ears to function properly.
  • Ear wax
    • If you are prone to Swimmer’s Ear then it is important to leave your ear wax alone. It is the barrier that protects the ear canal from infection. If you feel you have too much ear wax, see your doctor to have it removed.

If you end up with Swimmer’s Ear, my favourite suggestions to treat Swimmer’s Ear are:

  • Botanica Ear Oil
    • This is an awesome combination of Mullein, Tea Tree, Garlic and St. John’s Wort in an olive oil base. It helps relieve pain from the infection as well as treat the infection. Mullein oil is awesome at treating ear infections! Do not put any liquid in your ear if you have or think you may have a ruptured ear drum.
  • Heat
    • Applying heat directly to the ear can help reduce the pain associated with the infection. Try warming up a small towel in the dryer or using a hot water bottle and applying it to the ear. Use this for as long as comfortable.
  • Avoid the water
    • Avoiding the water or using ear plugs is important when you have Swimmer’s Ear. If the inner ear gets wet dry it as soon as possible. Keeping the ear dry allow for faster healing.
  • Seek medical attention
    • If the ear infection persists for more than 5 days seek medical attention from your family doctor or naturopathic doctor!

Curious about learning more? Connect with Dr. Jeffries or a licensed naturopathic physician in your area to learn more. As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic physician prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.

Dr. Brittany Jeffries, ND

Helix Integrative Health. Kelowna, BC. 778-484-4358

Paradigm Naturopathic Medicine. Vernon, BC. 778-475-3822