Swimmer's Ear: Prevention and Remedies for this Memorial Day

First and foremost use us! Proper water balance and maintenance can help to prevent getting it. 

Follow these tips to avoid swimmer's ear:

Swimmers-ear
  • Keep your ears dry. Dry your ears thoroughly after exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing. Dry only your outer ear, wiping it slowly and gently with a soft towel or cloth. Tip your head to the side to help water drain from your ear canal. You can dry your ears with a blow dryer if you put it on the lowest setting and hold it at least a foot (about 0.3 meters) away from the ear.
  • At-home preventive treatment. If you know you don't have a punctured eardrum, you can use homemade preventive eardrops before and after swimming. A mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol may help promote drying and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that can cause swimmer's ear. Pour 1 teaspoon (about 5 milliliters) of the solution into each ear and let it drain back out. Similar over-the-counter solutions may be available at your drugstore.
  • Swim wisely. Watch for signs alerting swimmers to high bacterial counts and don't swim on those days. In fact do not swim in any swimming pool where children are not wearing diapers, the water is murky or cloudy.
  • Avoid putting foreign objects in your ear. Never attempt to scratch an itch or dig out earwax with items such as a cotton swab, paper clip or hairpin. Using these items can pack material deeper into your ear canal, irritate the thin skin inside your ear or break the skin.
  • Protect your ears from irritants. Put cotton balls in your ears while applying products such as hair sprays and hair dyes.
  • Use caution after an ear infection or surgery. If you've recently had an ear infection or ear surgery, talk to your doctor before you go swimming.

Helping your treatment work

During treatment, the following 4 steps will help keep your ears dry and avoid further irritation:

swimming-ear-plugs
  1. Don't swim or scuba dive.
  2. Avoid flying.
  3. Don't wear an earplug, hearing aid or headphones before pain or discharge has stopped.
  4. Avoid getting water in your ear canal when bathing. Use a cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly to protect your ear during a bath.

Swimmer's ear is a common problem that can cause pain and discomfort for children and swimmers of all ages. In the United States, swimmer’s ear results in an estimated 2.4 million health care visits every year and nearly half a billion dollars in health care costs (1)

What is Swimmer's Ear?

Swimmer's ear (also known as otitis externa) is an infection of the outer ear canal. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear usually appear within a few days of swimming and include:

  • Itchiness inside the ear.
  • Redness and swelling of the ear.
  • Pain when the infected ear is tugged or when pressure is placed on the ear.
  • Pus draining from the infected ear.

Although all age groups are affected by swimmer's ear, it is more common in children and can be extremely painful.

How is Swimmer’s Ear Spread at Recreational Water Venues?

Swimmer’s ear can occur when water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time, providing the perfect environment for germs to grow and infect the skin. Germs found in pools and at other recreational water venues are one of the most common causes of swimmer’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear cannot be spread from one person to another.

If you think you have swimmer’s ear, consult your health care provider. Swimmer’s ear can be treated with antibiotic ear drops.
— CDC