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Swimmers Ear

Man with hands over ears | Healthier Me Today

Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa is an infection of the ear canal. The ear canal is a passage that links the outer ear to the tympanic membrane (eardrum).

Swimmer’s ear is often a result of long exposure to moisture. It is common among adults and kids who spend a long time swimming or bathing. A study conducted by the University of Iowa shows that the condition can also affect people who spend a long time outdoors.

Experts have pointed out that a swimmer’s ear may occur when the delicate skin in the ear canal is damaged or injured. The damaged skin is favorable for bacteria growth. The damage to the ear canal may be caused by intense scratching or the use of cotton swabs and headphones.

According to the CDC, over 2.4 million people suffer from swimmer’s ear every year in the United States.

Types of Swimmer’s Ear

There are two main types of swimmer’s ear. Below is an overview of each of them.

Chronic external otitis

This is when the infection in the ear canal is a result of a skin condition or an allergic reaction.

Acute localized external otitis

This occurs when a hair follicle in the ear canal region becomes infected. This leads to the formation of a furuncle (a pus-filled bump in the ear canal).

Symptoms and diagnosis of Swimmer’s Ear

Below are some of the common symptoms of a swimmer’s ear.

  • Pain in the area
  • Hearing loss
  • Irritation and itching in the area
  • Swelling and Redness in the ear canal
  • Sore lymph nodes  
  • Watery discharge from the ear
  • Tenderness moving the ear
  • Presence of scaly skin around the ear canal

Diagnosis of swimmer’s ear

To determine if you have otitis externa, your doctor will use an otoscope to inspect your ear. With the device, your doctor will check for the following.

  • Scaly skin
  • Damage to the eardrum
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Your doctor may ask you some questions about your medical history, the symptoms you are experiencing, and your recent experiences (using cotton swabs and swimming).

How to treat a swimmer’s ear

Your doctor may recommend the following if you have a swimmer’s ear.


Painkillers like Tylenol may be prescribed to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.


Here an expert will use suction to remove scaly skin and clean the ear. This, thus, will make the use of an ear drop a lot more effective.

Antifungal ear drops

If the condition is caused by a fungal infection, your doctor may prescribe ear drops (anti-fungi).

Ear wick

An ear wick is a soft cotton plug that contains a special medication. Your doctor will insert the plug into your ear canal. The goal is to help the medicine enter the affected area. Ear wick should be replaced after a couple of days (2 to 3 days)

Treatment for chronic external otitis

If the condition is a result of an allergy, your doctor will address the allergy first before treating the condition. Your doctor may instruct you to use ear drops and a spray for a couple of days. The ear drop contains a corticosteroid, a compound that eases swelling, redness, and allergic reactions. The spray also contains acetic acid. Acetic acid helps reduce pain and inhibits the growth of fungus and bacteria.

Treatment for acute external otitis

Most of the time, the furnace will burst on its own. If it doesn’t, your doctor will remove the pus and recommend antibiotics and painkillers.

How to manage a swimmer’s ear

Below are some natural remedies for swimmers’ ears. Make sure you consult your physician before trying them.

  • Garlic oil drops – Garlic oil is perfect for treating a swimmer’s ear, as it has strong antibacterial properties.
  • Hydrogen peroxideThis is an antiseptic that can destroy the bacteria in the ear. To get the best result, you should dilute it with water before use.
  • Ginger – Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce some of the symptoms associated with the condition.
  • Ice pack – Placing an ice pack on the ear for a couple of minutes may reduce inflammation and relieve pain.


  1. What increases the risk of having a swimmer’s ear? Below are a few things that may increase the odds of you developing the condition.
  • Having a skin condition like psoriasis and eczema
  • Swimming for too long or being in a water body that has a high level of bacteria
  • Having a small ear canal

2. When should I seek medical attention for a swimmer’s ear? You should seek prompt medical attention if the pain is severe and if your outer ear remains itchy, swollen, and red for more than a week.

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!