Swimmer’s ear is an outer ear infection that can occur when water stays in the ear canal for too long, giving germs found in pools, lakes and other bodies of water a chance to grow bacteria. Symptoms usually appear within a few days of swimming and can include itchiness inside of the ear, redness and/or swelling, pain when the ear is tugged has pressure applied to it and pus draining from the ear.
Tips for Prevention
- Keep your ears as dry as possible.
- Use a bathing cap, ear plugs or custom-fitted swim molds when swimming.
- Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering.
- Use a towel to dry your ears well.
- Tilt your head to each side and allow water to escape the ear canal.
- Pull your earlobe in different directions while the ear is faced down to help water drain out.
- If there is still water left in the ear, consider using a hair dryer to move air within the ear canal.
- Put the dryer on the lowest heat and speed settings; hold it several inches away from the ear.
- Don’t put objects in the ear canal (including cotton-tipped swabs, pencils, paper clips or fingers).
- Don’t try to remove war wax. Ear wax helps protect your ear canal from infection.
- Check pool/hot tub for adequate disinfectant and pH levels using test strips. Hot tubs and pools with proper disinfectant and pH levels are less likely to spread germs.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider If...
- You think you or your child has swimmer’s ear. It can be treated with antibiotic ear drops.
Drops should not be used by people with ear tubes, damaged ear drums, outer ear infections or ear drainage (pus or liquid coming from the ear).
- You have ear pain, discomfort or drainage from your ears.
- You think that the ear canal is blocked by ear wax.