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Posts Tagged ‘Swimmer’s Ear’

Swimmer’s Ear – what is it and what should I do about it? By Our Student Pharmacist, Shannon Peck.

During these warm summer months, when we get a chance to avoid the Ohio rain, who doesn’t love an afternoon at the pool? However, a refreshing swim is a nice summer treat that can quickly be made miserable with a case of swimmer’s ear, so let’s talk about what swimmer’s ear is, how to prevent it from happening, and how it is treated.

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa in the setting of excess moisture, is inflammation in the outside ear canal, typically due to a bacterial infection caused by the presence of water in the ears.

The moist environment helps bacteria grow, so it is important to make sure to dry your ears after getting them wet, whether by swimming, bathing, showering, etc.

Luckily, this is an infection that is not considered contagious. Swimmer’s ear most commonly is diagnosed in adolescents (ages 7-14), but is prevalent in all age groups. There is also an increased risk in those who live in moist/humid environments, those who use cotton swabs to clean their ears or have a history of ear canal injury, and those who have a history of skin diseases like psoriasis or eczema in the ear.

Some common signs of swimmer’s ear include:

  • ear pain
  • itchiness
  • a feeling of fullness in the ear
  • redness
  • possibly some slight drainage from the ear

The most effective way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to keep your ears dry! This can be done in multiple ways:

  • Wearing earplugs while swimming.
  • Wearing a shower cap while bathing.
  • Tilting head to side to drain water from ears after getting them wet.
  • Pulling on your earlobe may help to better remove water from ear canal.
  • Using a hair dryer on ears at a low heat/cool setting.
  • NEVER use cotton swabs to clean out or dry your ears! This can risk causing more damage to the ear canal and ear drum.
  • Do not try to remove ear wax on your own! Ear wax helps to protect the ear canal from infections. If you are concerned about having earwax removed, talk to your doctor about having it done professionally.

how to get water out of ears

If you have a concern for swimmer’s ear, you should see your doctor as the only course of treatment will be antibiotic eardrops to help get rid of any bacteria causing the infection. In more severe cases, a steroid may be included in the eardrop to help with inflammation and pain. Typically, patients will experience symptom relief within 7-10 days of treatment.

Over-the-counter ear drops will not help to treat an infection, even if marketed as suitable for swimmer’s ear. These drops are used to help dry the ear canal, but will not help to manage the underlying infection. Talk with your doctor to determine if using over-the-counter drying ear drops is appropriate for you to use after swimming.

Moral of the story: keep your ears dry as best you can and talk with your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have swimmer’s ear or any other ear infection.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and happy swimming!


Medina-Blasini Y, Sharman T. Otitis Externa. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; February 12, 2023.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556055/

Rosenfeld RM, Schwartz SR, Cannon CR, et al. Clinical practice guideline: acute otitis externa [published correction appears in Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Mar;150(3):504] [published correction appears in Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Mar;150(3):504]. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;150(1 Suppl):S1-S24. doi:10.1177/0194599813517083

Ear Infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Apr. 2022, www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi/ear-infections.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fhealthywater%2Fswimming%2Frwi%2Fillnesses%2Fswimmers-ear-prevention-guidelines.html.


Swimmer’s Ear. By Our Super Pharmacy Student, Kelly Banker.

Dear readers, this is Kelly, the intern, hoping you all are having a fantastic July. As we are trudging through these dog days of summer, I find myself reminiscing about my childhood summers spent at the lake (I grew up in Minnesota, dontcha know). I’m sure plenty of you are spending your summer at the pool, waterpark, lake or river, so I would like to talk to you about some common swimming related illnesses and how to prevent them so you and your family can stay happy and healthy all summer long.

First, I wanted to discuss swimmer’s ear, since this is a condition most people have heard of but might not know what it actually is.  Swimmer’s ear is also called ‘tropical ear’ or (just so I sound educated) ‘acute otitis externa.’ Swimmer’s ear happens when the external ear canal becomes inflamed, usually due to bacterial infection.  It most frequently occurs in children age 7-12 years with common risk factors being high humidity, warm temperature, and swimming (Wow, sounds like Central Ohio!).  Usually this condition only affects one ear and about 10% of people will get Swimmer’s ear at some point in their life.

Symptoms: Ear pain, itching and fullness with or without hearing loss, jaw pain, and discharge

Prevention: Wear ear plugs while swimming or dry your ears afterwards. Use a soft towel to dry your outer ear or a blow-dryer set on low and held a foot away from the ear. Do NOT use cotton swabs or insert other objects into your ear canal, as you could damage the thin skin inside your ear and cause an infection. You may also wish to use an over-the-counter ear drop such as Auro-Dri® or Swim-Ear®, which contain drying agents to help remove excess moisture. It is important to note that these agents should only be used to PREVENT swimmer’s ear. Once you have symptoms, OTC drops will not be helpful in curing the infection and you should see your doctor. You might see recommendations for using a homemade mixture of vinegar and isopropyl alcohol to dry your ears, but some clinicians do not recommend this since it is too drying and can make the situation worse. Personally, I’d stick with OTC drops since I wouldn’t want to go around smelling like vinegar all day.

Treatment: If you or your child develop symptoms of swimmer’s ear, you should see a physician as soon as you are able.  Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics or steroids or antibiotic ear drops and the infection should go away within 2-3 days. If you can’t make it in to see a doctor right away, you can use a warm washcloth held against the ear or acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with the pain.

You can find additional information on Swimmer’s ear here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/swimmers-ear/DS00473/

So to recap: Keep your ears dry after swimming with a towel, blow-dryer or OTC ear drop, and visit your doctor if you develop ear pain.  That’s all I have to say for now.  Watch for part 2 on swimming illnesses to be posted soon.