Diet & Nutrition

Summertime Swimming: Oral Probiotics for Healthy Ears

Summertime Swimming: Oral Probiotics for Healthy Ears

Nothing says summer like taking a dip in the pool, floating down the river, or catching waves at the beach. And if you have kids, you’re probably acutely aware of the not-so-fun risk that these aquatic adventures can pose to your entire family of swimmers: clogged, achy ears.

You see, excess moisture in the ear—from swimming, bathing, rain, or even being outside in the elements—can lead to trapped water in the ear canal. Most common in swimmers, this stuck water can create a moist environment conducive to unwanted bacteria, leading to that uncomfortable, sometimes painful feeling.

The good news is that several natural remedies can help support summertime ear health for the whole family:

  • Shake it out! To prevent water from getting trapped in the ear canal, shake out any extra liquid after swimming or bathing. To do the happy ear dance, hop on one foot while simultaneously turning that same ear towards the ground to let gravity do its job. You may look silly, but your ears will thank you!
  • Go for the garlic oil. Garlic, a natural antimicrobial, can help to get rid of any harmful bacteria growing in the ear canal1. You can purchase already-formulated garlic oil or make your own by adding minced garlic to olive oil and heating on low for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, strain out the garlic, and drop 2-3 drops in the affected ear(s).
  • Mix vinegar and rubbing alcohol. A mixture of one part white vinegar and one part rubbing alcohol can help to evaporate any water in the ear canal and discourage undesirable bacteria. As a preventative, 2-3 drops in each ear after swimming can ward off problems before they start.
  • Heat it up and dry it out. Heat from a warm washcloth or heating pad can relieve the pressure and discomfort of an earache. A gentle blow dry in the ears (make sure the air isn’t too hot) can also alleviate pain and thoroughly dry out ears after a shower or other water exposure.

Although you can take natural measures to treat swimming ear pain once it has set in, your best bet is to prevent it from ever taking hold in the first place by making your ear environment inhospitable to the bad guy microbes.

Taking Care of the Oral Microbiome

The truth is that optimal ear health begins in the oral microbiome—the teeming colonies of more than 700 species of bacteria living in our mouth, nose, throat, and ears. If this vast environment of microorganisms is in balance with plenty of good guy microbes, then the bad guys are much less likely to gain a foothold and cause upper respiratory, throat, and ear issues—including ear pain from swimming.

So, how do we make sure this vital microbiome is in balance to help our ears stay healthy all summer long? Well, our mouth is the gatekeeper for our entire body, so what we put into it has a vast effect on our entire microbiome. Antibiotics in food and as medicine, antibacterial oral care products, and overly sugary diets can all deplete the beneficial bacteria that stand guard in our mouth (and then travel up toward our inner ears), protecting us from unwanted invaders.

Because our oral cavity is also our immune system’s first line of defense, the best strategy for keeping your family feeling their best this summer is to do what you can to stay away from probiotic-depleting substances, while also proactively replenishing their ears, noses, and throats with bacteria—aka probiotics.

Probiotics for Healthy Ears

The good news is that the friendly flora in our oral microbiome work hard to ward discourage the harmful bacteria that often try to make our ears their home after a long, glorious day in the water. Streptococcus salivarius is a beneficial oral probiotic strain that populates the oral microbiomes of newborns within just hours of birth and is often present in the mouths of healthy people. Clinical research indicates that S. salivarius is important for maintaining upper respiratory and ear health.

One such strain, S. salivarius K12 (aka BLIS K12™), supports upper respiratory and ear health by crowding out unhealthy bacteria and producing antimicrobial proteins that keep the bad guys at bay. In a research study, 22 children with a history of ear health problems took BLIS K12™ for 90 days. By the end of the trial, the kids showed a 50-60% improvement in hearing measurements and 40% fewer episodes of ear issues2.

In a different trial, three months of BLIS K12™ supplementation led to a 65% decrease in ear health issues, even six months after treatment was completed3! Another S. salivarius strain, BLIS M18™, also inhibits the unwanted bacteria that can cause throat, pharynx, ear, and dental issues4.

Oral Probiotics: Easy on the Ears

Fortunately, you can support the summertime ear health of your whole family by supplementing with a high-quality daily oral probiotic formula.

Specifically for kids, PRO-Kids ENT is a chewable strawberry-flavored probiotic with BLIS K12™, BLIS M18™, and three other targeted strains to keep kids’ ears (and entire oral microbiome) healthy this summer. And, PRO-Kids ENT will get to work replenishing your kids’ mouth, nose, throat, and ears within just days3.

Whether you enjoy a gentle float on the lake or a rowdy day at the water park, splashing around (and cooling off) is one of summer’s most-loved rites of passage. By eating well, staying active, and taking care of all of your microbial friends that work so hard to keep you healthy, you can savor all that summer has to offer—without fear of uncomfortable ears—and live your happiest, healthiest days!

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1. Pai, S., & Platt, M. (1995). Antifungal effects of Allium sativum (garlic) extract against the Aspergillus species involved in otomycosis. Letters in Applied Microbiology, 20(1), 14-18.
2. Pierro, F. D., Pasquale, D. D., & Cicco, M. D. (2015). Oral use of Streptococcus salivarius K12 in children with secretory otitis media: Preliminary results of a pilot, uncontrolled study. International Journal of General Medicine, 2015(8), 303-308.
3. Pierro, F. D., Donato, G., Fomia, F., Adami, T., Careddu, D., C., & Albera, R. (2012). Preliminary pediatric clinical evaluation of the oral probiotic Streptococcus salivarius K12 in preventing recurrent pharyngitis and/or tonsillitis caused by Streptococcus pyogenes and recurrent acute otitis media. International Journal of General Medicine, 2012(5), 991-997.
4. Burton, J. P., Drummond, B. K., Chilcott, C. N., Tagg, J. R., Thomson, W. M., Hale, J. D., & Wescombe, P. A. (2013). Influence of the probiotic Streptococcus salivarius strain M18 on indices of dental health in children: A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 62(Pt_6), 875-884.
5. Abreu, N. A., Nagalingam, N. A., Song, Y., Roediger, F. C., Pletcher, S. D., Goldberg, A. N., & Lynch, S. V. (2012). Sinus Microbiome Diversity Depletion and Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum Enrichment Mediates Rhinosinusitis. Science Translational Medicine, 4(151).


Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.