The swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection usually caused by water that has remained in the outer ear canal for a long time, providing a moist environment for bacteria to grow.
Everyone can get swimming ears, but it is most often seen in children. The swimmer’s ear can not be spread from one person to another.
The swimmer’s ear is not the same as an otitis media, which is also common in children.
Signs and symptoms
- Pain in the ear
- Itching inside the ear
- Drainage from the ear
- Redness and swelling in the ear
Prevent the swimmer’s ear
- Keep your ears as dry as possible.
- Wear a swimming cap, earplugs, or specially designed swimming forms when swimming.
- Dry your ears thoroughly after bathing.
- Dry your ears well with a towel.
- Tilt your head back and forth so that each ear is facing down to allow water to escape the ear canal.
- Pull the earlobe in different directions with the ear facing down to help the water drain out.
- Consider using a hairdryer to move air into the ear canal.
- Set the hairdryer to the lowest speed/fan setting.
- Hold the hairdryer several centimeters from the ear.
- Check with your GP about the use of ear-drying drops after swimming.
- DO NOT use these if you have ear tubing, a punctured eardrum, swimming ear, or ear drainage.
- DO NOT put cotton swabs, pencils, paper clips, or keys in your ear.
- DO NOT try to remove earwax. Earwax helps protect the ear canal from infection.
- Check with your healthcare provider if you think your ear canal may be blocked by earwax.
Treatment of the swimmer’s ear
- Check with your GP if you have ear pain or drainage from the ear.
- The swimmer’s ear can be treated with antibiotic ear drops.