Children with swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) have inflammation in their external ear canal. It is usually caused by water irritating the skin inside the ear, which then becomes infected with a bacteria, or more rarely, a fungus.

diagram of swimmer's ear
Swimmer’s ear is usually caused due to excess exposure to water. Water in the ear can usually be removed using a simple technique, and you can also just let the water be and it will eventually dry away. However, you should never try to use a cotton swab to clean the ear as you can end up with a perforated eardrum.

A common problem among swimmers is a slowly developing pain in the ear due to infection of the ear canal. This infection is called Swimmer’s Ear (the professional term is Otitis Externa). It can start with a itchy ear feeling after a swim that intensifies to pain, particularly when the ear is touched or the ear is pulled.

This could be caused by water trapped in the ear canal after a swim. Your ear then becomes a great place for bacteria or fungus to grow, leading to an infection. The best cure? Prevention! if you still have difficulty, a product like the Eardoc might help.

Don’t use swabs or other objects in an attempt to dry the ear canal, since you could cause damage to your ear drum. You can use earplugs to limit or prevent water from getting in your ears, but these are not always effective. You might like to try the Ear Protective Goggle to keep water out of your ears.

Physicians give mixed advice on when you can return to the pool after a bout of swimmer’s ear. Some say that as long as you are treating it you don’t need to miss any water time. Others state that a 6-10 day no-swimming period should be followed to insure complete healing; if this is not done it will take longer for healing to occur. Ask your doctor for advice.

Diagnosis of Swimmer’s Ear

The diagnosis of swimmer’s ear is usually made when a child has the classic symptom of outer ear pain that is made worse by tugging on the child’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear can be confused with a middle ear infection, especially when your pediatrician is not able to see your child’s ear drum.

Self-Care at Home of Swimmer’s Ear

In most cases, waiting & taking care at home is preferred over antibiotics and painkillers. Here are some home treatments for Swimmer’s ear:

  • Avoid any further trauma to the ear. Do not attempt to remove visible debris or drainage from the ear.
  • Apply heat to the ear to control the pain at home. Warmth from a heating pad may provide some relief. Fold a towel in half and place it between the heating pad and the ear. Limit the use of the heating pad to short periods. The folded towel should help prevent accidental burning of the ear if the heating pad is too hot.
  • If you’re not allergic, you may try a variety of over-the-counter pain medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil), or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol).
  • Nonprescription eardrops are not usually strong enough to cure the problem. Such drops are useful only for prevention of episodes after water exposure. Eardrops used for treatment of the condition must be obtained with a prescription from your doctor.
  • non medication and non invasive device that might help for swimmers ear is Eardoc.


Symptoms to Watch For During Home Treatment

When trying to treat the infection at home, a few guidelines are needed – do not insert anything in to the ear (including Q-tips), do not put fluids if unsure of their content, and try to wait the body to heal it self as it should. While waiting the infection out, there are some Signs that should be noticed. if these symptoms are found, it is recommended to see an ENT or GP:

Ear pain and itching persist or get worse after 3 days of home treatment. The ear canal, the opening to the ear canal, the external ear, or the skin around the external ear becomes swollen, red, or very painful.
Drainage from the ear that does not appear to be earwax develops. Drainage from the ear that smells bad develops.
Fever develops. Dizziness or unsteadiness develops.
Ear discomfort lasts for longer than 3 days. Symptoms become more severe or frequent.

Medical Treatment

When the pain and the infection persist for more than 3-5 days, medical attention is recommended. Here are some of the procedures Doctors usually do:

  1. If there is a large amount of drainage or debris in the ear, the doctor will clean out the ear canal before medicine is placed in the ear.
  2. The ear canal may be cleaned out using a wire or plastic loop instrument or under direct vision using a suction device.
  3. After cleaning the ear, the doctor may place a foam wick in the canal. This allows antibiotic or antifungal eardrops or both to be placed onto the wick. The wick swells up inside the ear canal, thus holding the medicine in place against the lining of the skin.
  4. Oral pain medicines are generally prescribed if over-the-counter medicines are not strong enough. Oral antibiotics are not often prescribed unless the infection is severe.


To sum up, Swimmers ear is a common condition caused by infection of the ear canal. To treat Swimmer’s ear, there are home treatments that can assist the pain. In most cases, Antibiotics are not required and Painkillers are sufficient. If the pain and/or the infection persist for more than 3 days, Professional medical assistance is recommended.


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