How to Treat an Outer Ear Infection at Home

Do you feel pain and irritation in your outer ear? You may have outer ear infection, known as otitis externa. Discover how to treat the infection yourself at home with our tips.

Quick facts: Treating Outer Ear Infection At Home

  • ✅ Washing the outer ear with a vinegar-based solution can reduce the risk of infection in the ear canal – Mayo Clinic
  • ✅ Applying a warm compress to the ear can help reduce pain and swelling associated with an outer ear infection – American Academy of Otolaryngology
  • ✅ Avoiding swimming as it can worsen the infection – WebMD
  • ✅ Using over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce inflammation and pain – American Academy of Otolaryngology
  • ✅ Keeping the ear dry is important, as moisture can worsen the infection – Harvard Health Publishing
  • Introduction

    Outer ear infections, also known as otitis externa, are caused by bacteria or fungi that infect the ear canal. They can cause pain, itching, and even temporary hearing loss. Symptoms may also include a yellow discharge from the ear and swelling of tissue around it.

    It is important to treat an outer ear infection as soon as possible in order to prevent more serious complications that could require medical treatment. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat an outer ear infection at home. These treatments include:

    • Taking antibiotics or antifungal medications
    • Pressing a warm compress against the affected area
    • Cleaning the ear canal with rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide solutions
    • Using natural remedies such as garlic oil or tea tree oil

    It is important to speak with a doctor before beginning any home treatment plan for an outer ear infection to make sure it is right for your situation.

    Symptoms of an Outer Ear Infection

    Outer ear infections can cause a range of uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. These can include:

    • Itching
    • Swelling
    • Discharge from the ear
    • Redness and tenderness of the outer ear
    • Ringing or humming noises in the ear

    In more severe cases, fever, hearing loss, and facial nerve paralysis can occur. It is important to recognize the symptoms of an outer ear infection so that you can treat it quickly and effectively.


    Earache is a common symptom of an outer ear infection. This can cause a sharp, burning, or dull pain in the outside part of the ear. It can also radiate to other areas such as the neck, jaw, and side of the face.

    Other symptoms include:

    • Itchiness or tenderness in the area around the ear.
    • Redness or swelling of the earlobe.
    • Oozing of fluid from the ear canal.
    • Decreased hearing.

    An outer ear infection can be caused by swimming in polluted water or by a bacterial or fungal infection. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible if any of these symptoms are present for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

    Drainage from the Ear

    Drainage from the ear is one of the main symptoms of an outer ear infection, also known as “swimmer’s ear” or an infection of the external auditory canal. It can appear clear, yellow, or green in color. It may be accompanied by a foul smell and intense itching and burning sensations in and around the affected area. Swelling and pain can occur due to oozing from the infected area. If left untreated, outer ear infections can worsen over time.

    For treatment, it is important to:

    • Cleanse the infected area with a solution such as rubbing alcohol or vinegar-water mixture.
    • Apply antibiotic ointment if prescribed by your doctor.
    • Bear in mind that swimming should be avoided until symptoms have subsided.
    • Keep your head elevated so as not to aggravate drainage.

    Swelling in the Ear

    Swelling in the outer ear, also known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear, is one of the most common symptoms of an outer ear infection. This condition occurs when the water-filled areas around and inside the ears become infected with bacteria or fungus. It is usually caused by swimming in dirty water or excessive cleaning of the ears with cotton swabs.

    The affected area typically appears red and swollen, and may even have a yellow-tinged discharge that leads to a burning sensation when touched. In some cases, it can be accompanied by a fever due to the body’s immune response to the infection.

    If you suspect you have an outer ear infection, it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis and proper treatment as soon as possible.

    Redness in the Ear

    Redness in the ear is a common symptom of an outer ear infection or otitis externa. It can occur due to a build-up of fluid caused by an infection such as swimmer’s ear, or as a result of irritation from items such as headphones, cotton swabs, or hearing aids. The redness can range from mild to severe and will often be accompanied by itching, tenderness, and swelling. The redness can affect the entire outer ear or just certain parts.

    If you notice redness in your outer ear that does not resolve itself within 24 hours it is important to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment options. Treatment may include home remedies such as warm compresses, over-the-counter pain relievers, eardrops, and antibiotics if the infection is more severe.

    Itching in the Ear

    One of the most common symptoms of an outer ear infection is itching in the ear. This can be caused by a number of things including wax build-up, allergies, or a fungal or bacterial infection. When wax builds up in the ear, it can cause irritation and itching. Allergies to plants, molds or dust can also cause itching in the ear.

    Another common symptom of an outer ear infection is redness and swelling in and around the ears. This is often accompanied by pain and tenderness when pressure is applied to the area. In some cases, there may also be discharge from the ears which can range from a clear liquid to a thick yellowish pus-like discharge. Additionally, a person may experience dizziness or loss of balance due to inflammation in the inner ear caused by an infection. If you’re looking for ear infections home treatment for your baby, check out this guide.

    Treatment for an outer ear infection usually involves:

    • Keeping the area clean and dry
    • Taking antibiotics if necessary to treat any underlying infections causing symptoms such as itching in the ear.

    Causes of an Outer Ear Infection

    Outer ear infections, or otitis externa, are usually caused by bacterial or fungal growth in the external ear canal. They are often caused by swimming in contaminated water or improper hygiene. In some cases, they can also be caused by contact with an allergen or due to overproduction of wax.

    Let’s look at some other possible causes of this condition:

    Bacterial Infections

    Bacterial infections are the most common cause of outer ear infections (also known as otitis externa). These infections often start as a result of water or other liquids entering the ear and remaining there, creating a moist environment that bacteria naturally thrive in. Bacteria such as pseudomonas and mycobacteria may be able to cause an infection. In addition, certain skin disorders, such as eczema or psoriasis, can create opportunities for bacterial entry into the ear canal.

    As with any type of infection, it is important to seek medical treatment right away to ensure that the infection is cleared up appropriately. This typically involves topical antibiotics or oral antibiotics depending on severity; your doctor will advise you on the best course of action for treating your infection. Additionally, over-the-counter medications can be used to alleviate any symptoms you may experience from an outer ear infection such as pain and inflammation.

    Fungal Infections

    Fungal infections, also referred to as otomycosis, is one of the potential causes of an outer ear infection. Fungal infections are caused by a variety of fungi and can affect both adults and children.

    Symptoms of a fungal ear infection may include itching, pain, redness in the ear canal, an unpleasant odor coming from the affected area, discharge from the ear canal and/or hearing loss. It is important to note that symptoms may vary depending on the type of fungus causing the infection.

    Treatment for this type of infection usually involves antifungal eardrops or oral medications prescribed by your physician. Additionally,

    • keeping your ears dry (e.g.: avoiding swimming),
    • adequately cleaning your ears with prescribed cleaning solutions,
    • and using cotton-tipped swabs to clean your ears

    can help prevent fungal infections as well.

    Swimming or Water Exposure

    Swimming or Water Exposure is one of the common causes of Outer Ear Infection. Water that gets trapped in the ear canal can provide ideal conditions for bacteria and fungi to grow, leading to an infection. People who swim or bathe in a pool may be particularly vulnerable to this type of infection, as chlorine is known to kill healthy ear canal bacteria that normally help ward off infection-causing microbes.

    To prevent Outer Ear Infections caused by swimming or water exposure, it is recommended that swimmers wear waterproof earplugs and dry their ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing. Additionally, people should avoid swimming in dirty water and pay extra attention to cleaning the outer part of their ears after being exposed to any kind of water.


    Allergies are a common cause of an outer ear infection. Allergens can enter the ear canal and cause an allergic reaction, which leads to swelling and inflammation of the skin in and around the ear canal. This can block airflow in the canal, trap bacteria in the area, and eventually lead to an infection.

    Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

    • Itching,
    • Redness or swelling of the ear canal,
    • Ear pain when touching or pulling on the outer ear,
    • Drainage from the ear with a foul odor, or
    • Hearing loss.

    Allergens may include:

    • Dust mites and pet dander,
    • Pollen from trees or grasses,
    • Mold spores,
    • Food allergens (such as eggs),
    • Fragrances used in laundry detergents or fabric softeners,
    • Cosmetics ingredients like fragrances and preservatives.

    Treatments for an Outer Ear Infection

    Outer ear infections, also known as otitis externa, are a common occurrence and can be quite painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available to help relieve the symptoms of an outer ear infection. From over-the-counter medications to home remedies, there are a number of ways to deal with an outer ear infection.

    Let’s take a look at some of the options:

    Over-the-Counter Medications

    Over-the-counter medications are commonly used to treat an outer ear infection. Typically, a combination of pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin and antihistamines may be recommended by a doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider to reduce pain and inflammation. Additionally, topical corticosteroids could be applied directly to the area of infection to reduce inflammation and provide relief from discomfort.

    In some cases, an individual may be prescribed an antibiotic or antifungal medication if their outer ear infection has been caused by bacteria or fungi. Oral antibiotics are most often used for bacterial infections; whereas, antifungal creams or drops can be used for fungal infections. It is important that individuals take these medications as directed in order to fully clear the infection. Additionally, any unused medication should also be disposed off in accordance with the instructions provided on the package label.

    Natural Remedies

    Natural remedies are a therapeutic option for outer ear infections that don’t necessarily require medical help. This includes treatments such as garlic oil, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus essential oil.

    Garlic oil is known to be particularly effective at fighting off infection due its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. To use garlic oil, place a few drops in the outer ear several times daily until symptoms have subsided.

    Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and antifungal properties which can help reduce inflammation in the affected area when mixed with warm water and used to cleanse the outer ear.

    Tea tree oil is another natural remedy with anti-inflammatory benefits. To use this remedy, add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to a cotton swab or cotton ball soaked in warm water and apply it generously on or around the affected area for quick results.

    Finally, eucalyptus essential oil can be added to olive or coconut oils for topical application in order to reduce inflammation caused by an outer ear infection.

    Home Remedies

    Home remedies are one of the most common forms of treatment for outer ear infections. They involve taking simple measures to reduce pain and irritation. These can include:

    • Applying a warm compress to the affected area
    • Taking pain relievers (like ibuprofen or naproxen)
    • Avoiding swimming
    • Using alcohol-based ear drops
    • Using earplugs when swimming
    • Sleeping with your head elevated

    Additionally, some home remedies focus on preventing ear infections from developing in the first place. One example is avoiding crowded places and touching other people’s ears. Another is washing your hands frequently and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and plenty of rest.

    Additionally, many people swear by natural solutions such as garlic or vinegar drops for treating outer ear infections at home.

    Prevention of an Outer Ear Infection

    The best way to prevent an outer ear infection is to take preventive measures. This includes:

    • Maintaining a clean environment
    • Avoiding swimming in unclean water
    • Using ear plugs when swimming
    • Thoroughly drying your ears after bathing, swimming, or showering to prevent moisture from accumulating in the ear canal
    • Avoiding the use of earbuds and headphones to reduce the risk of infection.

    Avoid Swimming in Unsanitary Water

    Swimming in polluted and contaminated water can increase the risk of outer ear infections. Unsanitary water can have bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms that can get trapped in your ear canal, leading to an infection.

    When participating in any type of swimming activity, make sure you wear protective earplugs to help keep germs and dirt out of your ears. Additionally, try not to swim in water with high levels of chlorine or other chemicals as this can lead to an irritation that could cause an infection. Whenever possible it is best to swim in clean natural bodies of water such as oceans or lakes that are free from contaminants.

    To further avoid an outer ear infection while swimming you should always:

    • Dry your ears thoroughly afterwards with a clean towel.

    Keep the Ears Dry

    Keeping the ears dry is an essential step in preventing or treating outer ear infections, also known as otitis externa. Moisture accumulation provides an ideal environment for bacteria and fungus to grow and can lead to an infection.

    To prevent this, use a hair dryer set on cool to dry the ears after getting out of the shower or swimming. Moisture-absorbing materials such as cotton swabs can also be used to remove excess moisture.

    • If you do get wet, tilt your head sideways and pull up and back on your ear to help drain water from your ear canal.
    • Additionally, avoid putting objects such as cotton swabs into your ears as they can create a perfect environment for infection-causing microorganisms.
    • Instead, use the tips of clean towels or tissues when necessary to keep the ears clean and dry without inserting into the ear canal itself.

    Avoid Excessive Cleaning

    When it comes to preventing an outer ear infection, one of the most important things to keep in mind is to avoid excessive cleaning. Cleaning by swabbing or using a Q-tip should be limited as this can push the wax further down into the ear canal and irritate the skin, leading to an infection. It is best to keep your ears naturally clean.

    To do this safely, tilt your head upside down and use a damp cloth or tissue to gently rub around the outer ear in order to remove any dirt or debris on the surface. This can be done once a week as part of your normal hygiene routine.

    Additionally, avoiding swimming in polluted water and making sure that water isn’t able to enter your ears while showering or bathing can also contribute towards preventing an outer ear infection.

    Wear Earplugs When Swimming

    One of the key ways to keep your ears healthy and prevent an outer ear infection is to protect them when you go swimming in a lake, ocean, or pool. While you’re swimming, it’s important to wear a pair of earplugs that entirely cover your ears and fit as snugly as possible. Wearing a bathing cap can also help protect your ears from water entering the ear canal. On the other hand, if you have an ear infection treatment might be required.

    Water in the ear can create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow causing an infection. It also potentiality pushes debris and debris further down the ear canal which can further aggravate it or make existing infections worse. By using proper protection when going out into bodies of water, you are preventing any water exposure and subsequent irritation or infection. Additionally, taking regular breaks while swimming will allow for your ears to dry out. This is especially important if you have had any prior issues with ear infections or overly sensitive skin in your outer ear canal (aka pinna).


    The final steps in the treatment of an outer ear infection involve:

    • Cleaning the infected area,
    • Keeping the ear dry,
    • Limiting contact with water.

    Cleaning should be done by gently wiping away any debris or wax with a warm cloth and gentle pressure. Afterward, a warm compress should be applied to the affected area to reduce inflammation and pain. You can also use over-the-counter pain medications or antibiotics ointment to manage symptoms.

    Additionally, make sure you avoid swimming or using earplugs in contaminated water to prevent reinfection or spread of bacteria or virus. Finally, it’s always important to seek medical advice if symptoms persist for more than a few days or if there are signs of serious infection such as fever and severe ear pain.

    By following this advice your outer ear infection should clear up soon!

    FAQs about: Treating Outer Ear Infection At Home

    Q: What should I do if I think I have an outer ear infection?

    A: If you think you have an outer ear infection, you should see your doctor for an examination and to get the proper treatment. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you have an infection and can recommend the best course of treatment.

    Q: What home remedies can I use to treat outer ear infection?

    A: Some home remedies for treating outer ear infection include applying a warm compress to the affected area for 10-15 minutes several times a day, using over-the-counter pain relievers, and avoiding swimming or water activities until the infection has cleared up. You should also avoid using cotton swabs in the ear, as this can further irritate the ear.

    Q: How long does it take for home remedies to work for outer ear infection?

    A: The length of time it takes for home remedies to work for an outer ear infection can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the person’s individual response to the treatment. However, it is important to follow the recommended treatment plan and continue using the home remedies until the infection has cleared up.

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