How to Prevent Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's ear is an infection of the external canal that often occurs in people who are prone to water exposure. It can also be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, trauma to the ear canal, or excessive moisture trapped in the ear canal. It typically begins with symptoms such as pain and itchiness around your outer ears, which gradually worsen over time until they become unbearable.

Swimmer’s Ear Protection

What You Need to Know About Swimmer’s Ear and Swimming

Swimmer's ear is extremely common among swimmers, but not limited to them. Sometimes it can be caused by other things around the house. Swimmer’s ear occurs when water gets trapped in the ear canal and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi that thrive in moist conditions.

Symptoms of Swimmer's Ear

The pain of the swimmer’s ear can range from mild to severe, usually found near the junction between your outer ear and the opening into the ear canal. You may also experience itching or a burning sensation around that area as well as hearing loss if it becomes too severe. Be careful not to use any cotton swabs or anything sharp to clean your ear canal as it can make the pain worse. Here are some symptoms of the swimmer's ear.

  • Ear pain
  • Itchiness around the ears
  • Drainage from the ear canal that has an unusual odor
  • Dizziness/nausea (This usually only occurs in extreme cases)
  • Ringing in the ear (Tinnitus)
  • Swelling of the outer ear
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to light (Photophobia)

What Causes a Swimmer's Ear?

One of the main causes is exposure to water that contains bacteria or fungi, which should not be inside the body. It often occurs when you use items that are not clean around your house. Another cause is using Q-tips to clean your ear, which can push earwax further into the canal.

What are Some Risk Factors?

Swimming in open water, like lakes or oceans, where there is less chlorine in the water to kill microorganisms Drinking alcohol before swimming Drinking soda that has sugar added to it or caffeine Alcohol use slows down your body's ability to fight infection Taking showers instead of baths Using Q-tips to clean your ears Putting anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, such as cotton swabs or paperclips Having a history of chronic inflammation inside the ears Having eczema around the ear canal

Swimmer’s Ear Treatment

An ear drop solution is usually prescribed to you by your doctor, which helps to remove the excess fluid from the ear. This should be done after every time that you get water in your ear. Other ways can prevent swimmer's ear, including using a hairdryer on cool to dry ears after swimming or using an over-the-counter antibiotic ear drop solution.

However, early intervention is vital in preventing further complications. The best way to avoid a swimmer’s ear is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Tips for Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

There are many ways you can prevent a swimmer's ear so you don't have to experience these painful symptoms! Here are some prevention tips:

Wear Earplugs When Swimming

You can buy special earplugs at most drug stores, as well as make your own from a piece of cotton swab or some dowel wrapped with cling wrap. This will prevent extra moisture from seeping into your ear canal and help decrease the likelihood of an infection.

Dry Out Your Ears After Swimming

You should dry your ears with a towel and gently wipe away any water around the outer part of your ear. You can also try blowing air into your ears after you're done swimming to help with moisture.

Clean Your Ears Regularly

Cotton swabs are not the best way to clean out ear wax, as the cotton swabs can push wax further inside of your ear canal. If you want to get rid of excess wax on the outer part of the ear, clean with a washcloth that has been soaked in warm water.

Take an Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever for Pain or Fever

If you notice any swelling or infection signs, such as ear pain or redness, or swelling, you may want to visit a doctor and get checked out.

Stay Out of The Water if Your Ears Hurt

This is one cause for concern with the swimmer's ear: If you stop swimming and wait until your pain goes away before getting back in the pool, this can cause a problem. The germs and bacteria will have a chance to settle back in again.

Don't Use Cotton Swabs

One major cause of the swimmer's ear is the use of cotton swabs, which push wax further into the ear canal and can scratch your eardrum or injure the lining of your outer ear. If you notice wax in your ear, try gently cleaning out the canal with a suction bulb or moistened cotton ball to remove dirt and debris.

Keep Your Equipment Clean

Your swim cap can serve as a warm, moist environment for bacteria, which love ear infections! It's important to take care of your gear by washing it regularly with dish-washing soap and hot water. You can disinfect it in a dilute bleach solution (1 part bleach, 9 parts water), but make sure to rinse thoroughly.

Don't Wear Your Cap Too Tight

If you wear your swim cap too tightly, you cut off the circulation to your ear canal, making it a prime target for infection.

Take a Break From the Water

Swimming is a great workout, but don't overdo it! Make sure to take regular breaks between swim sessions and give your ears a rest to reduce irritation.

Be Aware of Possible Ear Injury

Banging your head frequently against the side of the pool can cause damage around the ear canal, causing more susceptibility to infection.


A swimmer's ear is an infection of the outer part of your ear canal. You can prevent a swimmer’s ear by taking a few precautions such as keeping your ears dry and clean, wearing hearing protection, not diving too deep underwater, or exposing yourself to cold water for prolonged periods. We hope you found these tips helpful and that they help you stay safe this summer!