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Staying Safe from Swimmer's Ear

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Splish splash! Playing in the water or participating in aquatic sports brings these sounds to life and reminds us of our favorite summer pastimes. Keeping your family healthy is important and nothing is worse than having your fun ruined by an ear infection.

Swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection of the outer ear, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your ear canal. While common in children, swimmer’s ear can affect people of all ages.

Contrary to the name, this infection can occur without hitting the pool. While excessive wetness in the ear canal is a common cause, having the tiniest scratch within the ear canal or consistently sticking your fingers or cotton swabs in your ears can be culprits.

Don’t let swimmer’s ear spoil your summer fun. Here’s what you need to know to keep your ears dry and infection-free!

Possible Causes

  • Being in warm, humid places
  • Harsh cleaning of the ear canal
  • Trauma to the ear canal
  • Dry ear canal skin
  • Foreign body in the ear canal
  • Excess ear wax
  • Eczema and other forms of dermatitis

Warning Signs

  • Redness of the outer ear
  • Itching in the ear
  • Pain, especially when touching or wiggling the ear lobe, which may spread to the neck, face or side of the head
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Swollen glands in the upper neck or around the ear
  • Swollen ear canal
  • Muffled hearing or hearing loss
  • Full or plugged-up feeling in the ear
  • Fever


Swimmer’s ear is typically diagnosed with an otoscope, a lighted instrument that helps examine the ear and aids in the diagnosis of ear disorders. This can determine whether there is an additional infection in the middle ear, called otitis media.

Treatment may take seven to 10 days when properly treated by a healthcare provider and may include:

  • Antibiotic ear drops
  • Corticosteroid ear drops (to help decrease the swelling)
  • Pain medication
  • Keeping the ear dry, as directed by your child's healthcare provider


  • Keep ear canals dry
  • Use ear plugs for swimming or bathing
  • Take a shower after swimming
  • Do not aggressively clean your ear canal
  • After swimming, rinse the ear with equal parts white vinegar and warm water mixed together

If you or your child is experiencing symptoms of swimmer's ear, be sure to contact a doctor in your area, or you can make an appointment online with an Ochsner physician by clicking here.

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