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Swimmer’s ear (aka otitis externa) is an infection of the ear canal. It is most commonly caused by water getting trapped in the ear canal.  Prevalence is generally during the summer months when kids have an increased opportunity to swim, hence how it got its name “swimmer’s ear”. However, it can occur any time of the year.

Symptoms can include itching, pain (especially with chewing or tugging on the earlobe), feeling clogged or decreased hearing do to swelling of the canal. There can be some drainage as well. Other causes of inflammation or infection of the ear canal include:

  • Allergies
  • Bubble baths, soaps, and shampoos
  • Cleaning the ear canal harshly c
  • Headphones inserted into the ear
  • Scratching the ear canal with a cotton swab, fingernail, or other firm object
  • Skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis and seborrhea
  • Sweating

Natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory remedies:

  • Garlic oil and mullein drops
  • Coconut oil
  • Apple cider vinegar

Natural remedies for pain relief include:

  • A few drops of warmed olive oil in the canal
  • A heating pad, warm cloth or warm lavender salt pack
  • Diluted basil or frankincense oil rubbed around the outside and behind the ears can help speed healing of ear infections and reduce pain.

As the saying goes, “prevention is the best medicine”. To prevent swimmer’s ear, combine equal parts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Instill a few drops into the ear canals after swimming. The alcohol will dry out any water and the vinegar will balance the pH in the canal.


Cindy Wechsler is an Integrative Pediatric Nurse Practitioner She received her Masters of Science in Nursing degree from Yale University and has been treating children for over 30 years. She specializes in the natural treatment of common childhood conditions. Her compassion and understanding of the body’s innate ability to heal itself fuels her passion to bridge the gap between traditional and integrative medicine.




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