It’s warm-weather time, and swimming and playing in pools, lakes, and the ocean are popular ways to enjoy the summer. However, if you, your child, or teen is spending a lot of time in the water, you all may be at greater risk for developing an uncomfortable but common ear condition: Swimmer’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal. The ear canal goes from the outer ear up to the eardrum. The three most common things that lead to ear canal infections are:

·         moisture

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·         trauma (something that we do to our own ear, like a cotton swab in the ear, a bobby pin in the ear, that itch that we just have to scratch somehow, our fingernail where we somehow injure the skin),

·         temperature



The main symptom of swimmer’s ear is pain. The skin in the ear canal is very easily injured, and there are a lot of nerve endings in there that can lead to that pain.

The other things that occur in swimmer’s ear is swelling of the ear canal. Swelling can lead to ear canal drainage, hearing loss, and sometimes some dizziness.

But pain is far and away the main thing that you want to think about if you’ve been swimming all day. If you’ve been pushing on your ear and it hurts, you need to see a doctor because without treatment, it usually doesn’t go away on its own.

The mainstay of treating swimmer’s ear is cleaning out the ear canal, and placing antibiotic drops. You don’t need an oral antibiotic.


Swimmer’s ear can be prevented by controlling the two things that we can prevent:

·         moisture

·         trauma to the ear canal.

We can control moisture by mixing up our own home solution of clear vinegar and alcohol, and putting a drop or two in after we swim. However, do not put this into your ear if you have a hole in your eardrum or tubes in your ear, because it will burn. There are similar over-the-counter products if you’re not comfortable mixing up your own alcohol and vinegar solutions.

One of the most important things to NOT do when you have swimmer’s ear is to traumatize the ear. Don’t pick up a cotton swab or bobby pin or anything pointed and sharp, when you have that itchy feeling. Don’t stick anything into the ear and start scratching, because all you’re going to do is create more swelling and more pain.