Summer is upon us, and that means time spent swimming, whether it be in a pool, pond, lake, the ocean or even the occasional river. Regardless the setting, lots of water to contend with. So it should be no surprise that swimmer's ear is a common ailment for children who spend any time in the water.
What Is Swimmer's Ear?
Swimmer's ear (scientifically known as acute otitis externa) is an infection that occurs in the ear when water gets trapped in the ear canal. When water is trapped this way, bacterium is liable to grow in your ear(s). It is painful, and is often coupled with inflammation, swelling, itching, and fluid drainage from the ears.
Swimmer's ear most commonly occurs in children, but it can also occur in adults. It usually happens after swimming (either in a pool or in natural water), and can also happen with surfers, divers, and other individuals who spend time in wet and warm conditions.
Preventing Swimmer's Ear
Aside from staying out of the water entirely, and that's not much of an option this time of year, there are measures you can take to prevent swimmer's ear and you and your children. Draining the ears after swimming is useful. This can be done by tilting one's head to the side for a couple minutes at a time, gently shaking your head to the side, or gently using a blow dryer to evaporate out any moisture.
Other measures include rinsing the ear canals after swimming by using a solution of rubbing alcohol and vinegar, or using wax ear plugs while in the water. These measures would be especially useful if you or your child have experienced it before.
Treating Swimmer's Ear
Swimmer's ear usually is not severe. Swimmer's ear pain usually passes within 3 days, and the infection usually passes within 10. Using some of the home remedies that follow can make a difference in healing this ailment. If symptoms persist longer than 5 days, then it is recommended you visit your doctor. He or she might prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
Natural Home Remedies for Swimmer's Ear
Coconut oil is a substance with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, and is commonly recommended as a home remedy for a variety of ailments. When applied to an ear infected with swimmer's ear, it can help fight the infection.
A solution of rubbing alcohol and vinegar can be useful in treating swimmer's ear. Applying a couple drops of a solution with even amounts of these two substances can help twofold: alcohol helps to dry out the ear (removing moisture that causes the infection), and vinegar helps stifle bacteria growing because of its acidity. It is recommended that you do this twice each day.
Applying heat (heat therapy) is a useful method for reducing the severity of symptoms related to a swimmer's ear infection. Applying heat directly to the ear and surrounding area will help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Applying a warm, slightly damp washcloth to the outside of the ear, or another heated object such as a bottle of warm water wrapped in cloth, will do the trick. Hold it there for 15 minutes. This method is also useful for drying out any excess moisture remaining in the ear.
Garlic oil is a remedy that can help relieve swimmer's ear if it is used properly. It can be purchased in liquid form at many health food stores. The recommended method is to place 3 to 5 drops of garlic oil into the affected ear, plug the ear with a cotton ball, and lay one's head to the side with the ear facing up for 15 minutes. Do this daily until symptoms subside.
Have fun this summer by trying some of these aids to swimmer's ear relief!
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