How To Prevent and Treat Swimmer's Ear

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By News Team on July 1, 2021

Summer is finally here, and we're ready to enjoy the hot weather!

For many of us, that means spending a lot of time keeping cool at the pool, but it can also mean that your child could come down with a bout of swimmer's ear.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the skin that lines the outer ear canal. When moisture or water sits in the ear for a prolonged period of time, it can encourage the growth of bacteria.

It’s a common infection that can be very painful, but it can be prevented.


In spite of prevention efforts, your child might still get swimmer’s ear. Watch for these signs and call your pediatrician if they appear:

  • Pain when the ear is touched
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Difficulty hearing


Most swimmer’s ear infections will need topical antibiotic drops to heal the skin.

"It's important to remember that the first-line treatment for swimmer's ear is ear drops," says Travis Reeves, M.D., of Carilion Clinic Otolaryngology. "Some patients, especially with severe infections, may require additional treatment with oral antibiotics. Swimmer's ear can progress to involve surrounding structures, so it's important for to seek care immediately if you feel that your child may have symptoms." 

Ask your child’s pediatrician when your child can resume swimming; the American Academy of Pediatrics generally recommends that children with swimmer’s ear should avoid submerging their heads for seven to 10 days.
If your child’s swimmer’s ear keeps recurring, special drops may be needed to prevent infection of the ear canal. Your pediatrician may prescribe them or refer your child to an otolaryngologist.


Here are three top tips for keeping ears healthy while enjoying the water this summer:

  1. Keep ears dry, especially after swimming or bathing. Have your child tip their head to the side to let all the water drain, then repeat on the other side. If necessary, you can carefully use a hair dryer set on the coolest setting to completely dry the ear canal.
  2. Maintain a healthy amount of ear wax. Yes, that’s right! A healthy amount of wax is good for the ear! Ear wax plays an important role in preventing ear infections. Wax has natural germ-fighting agents that protect the delicate skin in the ears. Consult your primary care provider or your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned that either of you have too much wax.
  3. Be gentle to the skin in the ear canal. Avoid scratching or vigorous cleaning with cotton swabs or other objects that can cause small tears and damage the skin. Use a drop or two of olive oil in the ears each day to help lubricate the skin.

Have fun in the water!

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