Water in the ear is annoying, but it’s happened to almost all of us at some point. You know how it goes – a simple swim or soak in the bathtub turns into a pesky situation. After all, it’s totally possible for water to seep into your ear, resulting in major discomfort. Normal daily activities can suddenly become frustrating. So what do you do when water is trapped in your ear?
Get The Water Out Promptly To Avoid Ear Infection
According to the UK National Health Services, 1 in 10 people ends up with otitis externa or the swimmer’s ear infection at some point in their lives. This happens when water enters and stays in your outer ear canal. It’s crucial to be prompt in getting the water out of your ear. This will ease the pain and discomfort while preventing an ear infection from cropping up.1
Possible Symptoms If You Have Water In Your Ears
When water is stuck in your ears, the most common sign is discomfort. You may not hear as clearly as
Some other symptoms call for medical attention. Redness, soreness, swelling, and pain are signs of swimmer’s ear, an infection of the outer ear.2 Other red flags include a discharge from the ear, itchiness, and even temporary hearing loss.3 If any of these seem familiar, visit a doctor as soon as possible. Your infection will need treatment. If the infection is severe, you may also have a fever, warranting immediate medical attention.
While you should exercise caution, don’t panic if water does enter your ears. Often, it can be easily resolved with some old-fashioned home remedies. Here’s a roundup of some natural solutions that might save the day.
1. Tilt Your Head
Yes, it can be as simple as that! If you’re lucky, the simple act of lying down (with the affected ear facing
2. Towel Dry
Keep a clean dry towel handy to gently dry your ears after a bath or swim. This will prevent any water on the outer ear from slipping in.5
3. Bring Out The Hair Dryer
Pointing a blow dryer at your ear may help. Of course, keep it at a safe distance on a low setting.6 Otherwise, you run the risk of burning your ear.
4. Use A Warm Compress
A warm compress can help soothe ear pain from trapped water or an underlying infection. This opens up your Eustachian tubes. Don’t make it too hot, though. And if you’re using an electronic pad, set it to low.7
A gentle steaming can work similarly to a warm compress. Just set up a steamer and cover your head with a towel as you would do to treat a cold. Do this for at least five minutes. Hopefully, you will feel the muffled sound in the ear canal clear up. Once the water flows out, mop up the fluid using a clean dry towel.
6. Use A Cotton Swab (Carefully!)
Whatever you do, don’t shove a cotton swab into your ear. Instead, use it to clean up the fluid on the outside. Stick to a loose tip that won’t hurt your ear canal.
Again, don’t use the cotton swab inside your ear under any circumstances. It should only be used on the outer area and entrance of the ear, without a pushing movement. This will prevent dirt or germs from entering the ear canal.8
7. Try Vinegar And Rubbing Alcohol Drops
If you have swimmer’s ear, your ear will become inflamed and infected, calling for additional treatment. In this case, water and bacteria are trapped in your ear canal. For a simple home remedy, mix together equal amounts of vinegar and rubbing alcohol. The vinegar prevents bacterial growth, while the alcohol binds to the water, drying it out as it evaporates.9
Even the American Pregnancy Association suggests this remedy for expectant mothers, so it is safe to use. But if you have damage to the ear drums or any perforations, it’s a different story. Don’t try it then as you may damage your ear further. This holds true if you’ve had ear surgery as well. You’ll also have to skip the remedy if you have an ear tube or drainage system. This might make the drops flow deeper into the ear, bringing along dirt and bacteria and increasing the risk for middle ear infections.10
Avoid Self-Medicating If You Have Water In Your Ears
Do not self-medicate. Even using ear drops based on an older prescription is not a good idea. The condition of your ear, as well as the presence (or absence) of infection, can alter the kind of treatment needed. If you’re concerned that your ear may need medical attention, go ahead and get it. The ears are a delicate sense organ and must be treated with the same care you’d give your eyes.
Prevention Is Your Best Bet
Ideally, try to prevent water from getting into your ear in the first place. You can do this by following these simple precautions suggested by the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.11
- Keep your ears dry when you bathe and swim.
- Use a hair dryer set on low to gently dry off your ears completely after a swim or bath.
- Have a specialist, like an otolaryngologist, clean your ears from time to time. This helps remove
- Avoid randomly cleaning your ears with cotton ear swabs. This actually pushes particulates like dirt from your outer ear into the ear canal. This is exactly what you don’t want! It also strips the ear of the wax designed to protect it. To top it off, it can irritate the skin in the canal, making it easy for an infection to develop.
- Wear a swimming cap when you go for a swim. Always.12 You should also wear earplugs.
- Attempt to keep your head above water as you swim.13 The extra effort will be worth it.
|↑1, ↑3||Otitis externa, NHS.|
|↑2||Otitis Externa: Get Rid of Swimmer’s Ear, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑6, ↑12||How to Treat Swimmer’s Ear Naturally During Pregnancy, American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑8||Lee, L. M., R. Govindaraju, and S. K. Hon. “Cotton Bud and Ear Cleaning-A Loose Tip Cotton Bud?.” Medical Journal of Malaysia 60, no. 1 (2005):
|↑9||Otitis Externa: Get Rid of Swimmer’s Ear, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.|
|↑11||Swimmer’s Ear, American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.|
|↑13||How to Treat Swimmer’s Ear Naturally During Pregnancy, American Pregnancy Association.|