Swimmer’s Ear - Natural Treatments

If you have an ear infection then you must consult a doctor and follow their guidelines. Additionally, if they authorize it, you could also use some natural remedies.
Swimmer’s Ear - Natural Treatments

Last update: 09 September, 2020

Swimmer’s ear or “otitis externa” is an infection that occurs when fluid builds up in the inner ear and is accompanied by inflammation. So, depending on how severe it is and the area where it develops it could be external, middle, middle with effusion, or acute or chronic infection.

Consult a doctor as soon as you begin to experience symptoms, they can indicate the most appropriate treatment to follow.

Below we’ll review the causes in detail and share some of the popular alternatives out there with which speed up relief. So, are you ready to take some notes?

What causes external ear infections

According to Dr. Nicole Holmer, swimmer’s hear is an infection of the external ear canal that can be caused by:

  • Humidity trapped in the ear canal.
  • Injury to the ear canal.

She also states that “some people with certain skin conditions may be more prone to developing external ear infections”, including swimmers, who are constant contact with water.

A man swimming laps in a pool.

At the same time, Dr. Bradley W. Kesser comments that “Various types of bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus, can cause generalized external otitis.”

In some cases, bacteria that come along respiratory diseases can get to the ear canal and cause infection and inflammation. Some allergies lead to inflammation in eustachian tubes (the channels that connect your middle ear and throat).

All of the above, as well as poor hygiene habits, can contribute to the appearance of external otitis and other ear infections. Therefore, taking proper care and maintaining food habits are essential.

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Symptoms of swimmer’s ear

Symptoms of an ear infection can vary from person to person depending on how serious it is. Just the same, the most common symptoms of external otitis are the following:

  • itchy ear
  • pain when you touch your ear
  • reddening of the area
  • light-colored odorless discharge.
  • discomfort when swallowing saliva liquids, or foods.
  • reddening and swelling of the outer ear and the ear canal.

If the infection progresses, other symptoms may occur and the abovementioned symptoms may become more intense. In these cases, consulting with a doctor as soon as possible is crucial in order to obtain proper treatment.

Treatment of swimmer’s ear

According to Dr. Holmer, doctors will generally prescribe ear drops to treat external ear infections. What’s more, during the consultation, the doctor may clean the ear canal and take a sample of secretions in order to determine the most effective medication.

Medical treatments for ear infections include taking antibiotics to kill any microorganisms that caused the condition, and usually also antihistamines to help you fight any allergies.

Natural remedies against swimmer’s ear

According to popular belief, when people experience mild discomfort in the ear, they can resort to certain home remedies for relief. There’s no evidence to confirm their effectiveness, however, some choose to try them.

It’s important to keep in mind that these remedies do not substitute the treatment prescribed by a doctor. In any case, they can accompany medical treatment under the authorization of your doctor.

Garlic oil

Garlic for swimmer's ear.

Given that garlic is believed by some to possess antibacterial properties, there are those who consider garlic oil to be useful in relieving the discomfort that ear infections like swimmer’s ear cause.

How to use it

  • In short, add three drops of pure garlic oil to each infected ear and keep your head horizontal so it reaches the inner ear.


Just like garlic, onion is believed to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Therefore, many believe it could help fight the bacteria that cause ear infections.

How to use it?

  • Firstly, chop a fresh onion, wrap it in clean tissue, and place it over the affected ear for five minutes. Repeat this treatment several times a day.

Olive oil, a grandmother’s greatest ally against ear infections

Olive oil for swimmer's ear

Olive oil is one of the home remedies that people have used the most when it comes to combating ear infections. In fact, this is the most common recommendation from grandmothers when it comes to this condition.

How to use it

  • To begin, heat two tablespoons of olive oil until it reaches a comfortable temperature, and pour it into an eyedropper. Then, apply two to three drops in each infected ear.

Hot water

The heat has a pain-relieving effect that also helps improve circulation and facilitates the elimination of infection. Therefore, preparing a hot water compress can help provide relief from ear infections like swimmer’s ear.

How to use it

  • First, fill a hot water bag with hot water.
  • Cover it with a towel, then place it over the sore ear.
  • Repeat the procedure as often as necessary.

What if the symptoms get worse?

In case symptoms get worse and involve fever or other kinds of discomfort, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible for an evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.

The home remedies for ear infections that we mentioned above should be used with a great deal of caution. Preferably, you should consult with a medical professional beforehand to avoid adverse reactions.

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  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Ear infection (middle ear).
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Ear infection treatment: Do alternative therapies work? Retrieved from
  • Sarrell EM, et al. (2001). Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media.