Swimmer’s Ear: Prevent easily It in 5 Steps

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Swimmer's Ear
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Swimmer’s ear, also known as acute external otitis or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal.

It typically occurs when water remains trapped in the ear after swimming, creating a moist environment that promotes the growth of bacteria or fungi.

Swimmer’s ear is more common in swimmers but can also affect people who are frequently exposed to water or have excessive moisture in their ears.

How it happens?

Swimmer’s ear typically occurs when water becomes trapped in the ear canal, creating a moist environment that promotes bacterial or fungal growth.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of how swimmer’s ear happens:

Moisture in the Ear

When water enters the ear canal while swimming, bathing, or even sweating, it can get trapped inside.

This moisture creates an environment that can soften and break down the protective layer of skin lining the ear canal, making it easier for bacteria or fungi to invade.

Damaged Skin

External factors, such as excessive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs, scratching the ear with sharp objects, or using headphones or earplugs that irritate the skin, can cause small abrasions or cuts in the skin lining the ear canal.

These openings provide an entry point for bacteria or fungus.

Bacterial or Fungal Infection

The presence of moisture and damaged skin creates ideal conditions for bacterial or fungal overgrowth.

Common pathogens responsible for swimmer’s ear include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.

These organisms multiply and cause infection, leading to the symptoms associated with swimmer’s ear.

What are the risk factors?

Several factors can contribute to the development of swimmer’s ear.

Here are the risk factors associated with this condition:

Swimming or Moisture Exposure

Prolonged exposure to water or moisture in the ear can increase the risk of developing swimmer’s ear.

The presence of water in the ear creates a moist environment that promotes bacterial or fungal growth.

Damaged Skin in the Ear Canal

Any break or damage to the skin lining the ear canal can increase the risk of infection.

This can occur due to cleaning the ear with objects like cotton swabs or hairpins, scratching the ear canal with sharp objects, or irritation caused by hearing aids or earplugs.

Humidity and Heat

Hot and humid environments can contribute to excessive sweating and moisture in the ear, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria or fungi.

Ear Canal Blockage

Objects that obstruct the ear canal, such as earplugs, hearing aids, or excessive earwax, can trap water and moisture in the ear, increasing the risk of infection.

Skin Conditions and Allergies

Certain skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or allergic reactions can make the skin of the ear canal more susceptible to infection.

Irritation and itching associated with these conditions may lead to increased scratching or damage to the skin.

Trauma or Injury

Injury to the ear canal, such as scratches from using cotton swabs or trauma from foreign objects, can create entry points for bacteria or fungi, increasing the risk of infection.

Swimmer’s Ear History

If you have previously had swimmer’s ear, you are more prone to developing it again in the future.

Weakened Immune System

Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or undergoing chemotherapy, are at a higher risk of developing infections, including swimmer’s ear.

What are the symptoms of Swimmer’s ear?

The symptoms of swimmer’s ear can vary in severity but often include:

Ear pain

Swimmer’s ear typically causes intense pain, which can range from mild discomfort to severe, sharp, or throbbing pain.

The pain may worsen when the ear is touched or when pressure is applied to the area.

Itching or irritation

The infected ear canal may feel itchy, and there might be a general sense of discomfort or irritation in the ear.

Redness and swelling

The outer ear canal may appear red and swollen.

The earlobe or nearby lymph nodes may also be swollen.

Drainage or discharge

Swimmer’s ear can cause the ear to produce clear, yellow, or pus-like discharge.

This discharge may have an unpleasant odor.

Muffled or decreased hearing

Due to the swelling and the presence of fluid or discharge in the ear canal, hearing may be affected.

Sounds may seem muffled, and there may be a sensation of fullness in the affected ear.

Decreased or painful jaw movement

In some cases, the infection and associated inflammation can affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which can lead to pain, difficulty in opening the mouth fully, or discomfort while chewing.

How to treat Swimmer’s ear?

Here are some steps to treat swimmer’s ear:

Keep the Ear Dry

The first step in treating swimmer’s ear is to keep the affected ear dry.

Avoid swimming or exposing the ear to water until the infection has cleared.

You can use a cotton ball coated with petroleum jelly or a waterproof earplug to protect the ear during showers or baths.

Use Eardrops

Over-the-counter eardrops specifically designed for treating swimmer’s ear can be used.

These eardrops typically contain a combination of antibiotics to fight the infection and a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Follow the instructions on the product packaging or consult a healthcare professional for proper use.

Clean the Ear Canal

Gently clean the ear canal to remove any debris or discharge.

You can use a soft, damp cloth or a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and rubbing alcohol to gently wipe the outer ear.

Be cautious not to insert any objects into the ear canal.

Manage Pain and Discomfort

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage pain associated with swimmer’s ear.

Follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or if the pain persists.

Rest and Moist Heat Compresses

Allowing the ear to rest and using warm compresses can help reduce discomfort and promote healing.

Apply a warm compress to the affected ear for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day.

Consult a Healthcare Professional

If over-the-counter remedies and self-care measures do not improve symptoms within a few days or if symptoms worsen, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

They can provide a proper diagnosis and may prescribe stronger eardrops or oral antibiotics if necessary.

How to prevent Swimmer’s ear in 5 steps?

Here are five steps to help prevent swimmer’s ear:

1.      Dry your ears properly

After swimming or any water exposure, make sure to dry your ears thoroughly.

Tilt your head to each side to allow water to drain out, and gently dry the outer ear with a soft towel.

You can also use a hairdryer on a low setting to help evaporate any remaining moisture.

2.      Avoid inserting objects into your ears

Never insert cotton swabs, bobby pins, or any other objects into your ears, as they can damage the delicate ear canal lining and increase the risk of infection.

Instead, use a clean cloth or tissue to gently clean the outer part of your ears.

3.      Use earplugs or a swim cap

When swimming, consider using earplugs or wearing a swim cap to help keep water out of your ears.

Earplugs are available in various forms, including custom-fitted options, and can provide an effective barrier against water entry.

4.      Avoid swimming in polluted water

Try to avoid swimming in areas where water contamination is likely, such as overcrowded pools or polluted water bodies.

These can introduce bacteria and other contaminants into the ear canal, increasing the risk of infection.

5.      Use over-the-counter preventive drops

Certain over-the-counter ear drops, often referred to as swimmer’s ear drops, can help prevent infections.

These drops typically contain a mixture of alcohol and acetic acid that creates an unfavorable environment for bacterial growth.

After swimming, place a few drops in each ear to help evaporate excess moisture and inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Extra tips for clean ears

Taking care of your ears is essential for maintaining good ear health.

Here are some tips to keep your ears healthy:

Protect Your Ears

Avoid exposure to loud noises, such as loud music or machinery, without proper hearing protection.

Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can damage the delicate structures in your ears and lead to hearing loss.

Wear earplugs or earmuffs when engaging in noisy activities.

Clean Your Ears Properly

The ears are self-cleaning, and the outer ear canal usually does not require deep cleaning.

Use a damp cloth to gently clean the outer part of your ears.

Avoid inserting cotton swabs or any other objects into your ear canal, as it can push wax deeper and potentially damage the eardrum.

Maintain Proper Ear Hygiene

Keep your ears dry and free from excess moisture.

After swimming or showering, tilt your head to each side to allow water to drain out.

Use a soft towel to dry your ears gently, avoiding insertion into the ear canal.

Be Cautious with Ear-Cleaning Solutions

If you feel your ears are excessively blocked with earwax, consult a healthcare professional for guidance.

They may recommend specific ear drops or irrigation techniques to safely remove earwax buildup.

Avoid DIY Earwax Removal

It’s important to avoid using DIY earwax removal techniques, such as ear candles or other home remedies.

These methods can cause injury, damage the ear canal, or worsen the situation.

Seek professional assistance for safe earwax removal if needed.

Be Aware of Allergies and Irritants

Certain allergies or irritants can affect your ears.

Be mindful of any allergic reactions, such as itching, swelling, or redness, and avoid exposure to known allergens.

If you suspect an allergic reaction, consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection that affects the outer ear canal.

It commonly occurs due to prolonged exposure to water, allowing bacteria or fungi to enter and multiply in the ear canal.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear may include ear pain, itchiness, redness, swelling, and drainage.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment, such as antibiotic or antifungal ear drops, can help alleviate symptoms and prevent complications.

Preventative measures like keeping ears dry, avoiding the use of cotton swabs, and using ear plugs in water can reduce the risk of swimmer’s ear.

If you suspect swimmer’s ear or any ear infection, consulting a healthcare professional is recommended for proper evaluation and treatment.


What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection or inflammation of the outer ear canal typically caused by water getting trapped in the ear.

What are the common symptoms of swimmer’s ear?

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include ear pain, itching, redness, swelling, discharge, muffled hearing, and a feeling of fullness in the ear.

How can swimmer’s ear be prevented?

To prevent swimmer’s ear, you should keep your ears dry, avoid swimming in contaminated water, use earplugs or a bathing cap, and dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering.

How is swimmer’s ear treated?

Treatment for swimmer’s ear often includes antibiotic ear drops to fight infection, pain relievers, and keeping the ear dry. In severe cases, oral antibiotics may be prescribed.

Is swimmer’s ear contagious?

No, swimmer’s ear is not contagious.
It is caused by bacteria or fungus that are already present in the environment.

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