What Can I Do to Ease My Swimmer's Ear Pain?

If you spend a significant amount of time at the pool or beach, you have probably suffered from ear pain because of swimmer's ear at some point. Swimmer's ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection of the ear canal resulting from a buildup of water. Ear pain is a common symptom of swimmer's ear and can be alleviated with several simple at-home measures, along with a prescription antibiotic to treat the infection.

Alleviate swimmer's ear pain with a few simple measures. (Image: VladimirFLoyd/iStock/Getty Images)

Antibiotic Drops

Consult a doctor if you suspect an ear infection. Symptoms of an ear infection include ear pain, difficulty hearing, ear discharge, redness of the inner ear and fever. He may prescribe antibiotic drops mixed with a steroid to help clear the infection and reduce inflammation. These drops are typically administered over the course of 10 to 14 days. To ensure proper dosage of the medication, have someone else place the drops into your ear while you are lying with your affected ear facing up. This will help the medication to effectively penetrate the entire ear canal.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Take over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen, to relieve pain and associated fever. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen can ease swelling that may be causing pain.

Vinegar Drops

Vinegar can alleviate swimmer's ear by creating an undesirable environment for the growth of bacteria. The Children's Physician Network recommends creating a diluted vinegar solution by mixing equal parts of white vinegar and water, or purchase a premixed solution at your pharmacy. Place the solution in the ear using a dropper, let it sit for five minutes, then remove it by tilting the head to one side. Administer it twice a day until symptoms resolve. Avoid vinegar and alcohol solutions, which are commonly used to dry the ear after swimming, if you have an actual infection as alcohol tends to burn the skin and worsen pain.


Apply a heating pad or warm washcloth to your ear in 20-minute intervals to alleviate moderate to severe pain. Heat can also help fluids drain from the ear, which will promote healing.


With proper care and treatment, most cases of swimmer's ear should resolve within seven days. Call your doctor if you experience symptoms of swimmer's ear, a worsening of ear pain or if your symptoms last longer than one week. If you spend a lot of time in the pool, follow measures to protect your ear from infections, such as drying the ear and removing excess moisture. After you finish swimming, tilt your head to the side and pull your ear gently to allow water to flow out of the ear canal. Then pat your ear lobe dry with a towel. If you suffer from repeated bouts of swimmer's ear, try using a vinegar and alcohol solution to dry the ear. The alcohol acts as a drying agent and kills bacteria, while the vinegar helps to prevent bacterial growth int the ear. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and alcohol or purchase the solution from your pharmacy.

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