What Is Swimmer’s Ear?


An infection of the outer ear is known as swimmer’s ear. The proper name for this ailment is otitis extema. The infection can run from your eardrum to the outside of your head in the outer ear canal.

Because this condition is very prevalent among swimmers it is called swimmer’s ear.

When you are swimming water may become trapped in the ear. The water contains germs and bacteria and when the water goes into the ear so do the germs and bacteria.

In addition to swimming other causes of swimmer’s ear include cleaning the ear canal using cotton swabs, your fingertip or a hairpin or using headphones or wearing a hearing aid. Any if these activities can cause small breaks in the skin of the ear which lets the bacteria come in and grow. Using hair spray and/or hair dye and getting it in your ears can also cause problems.

If you think you have a case of swimmer’s ear let your health care professional check it out. The doctor or other health care professional will examine the ear and may take a peak inside the ear canal.

Sometimes swimmer’s ear may cause the ear to become painful and swollen. Sometimes fluid and other unwanted materials may build up in the ear and the ear will need to be cleaned out by the professional.

When treated early swimmer’s ear is usually not serious and responds well to treatment. If left untreated swimmer’s ear may lead to more severe health issues.


Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include itching inside the ear, ear redness, fever, flaking of the skin on the ear, pain if you touch the ear or pain if you move the head and/or the ear draining fluid which may be pus.

As the swimmer’s ear infection becomes worse the symptoms become more pronounced and severe. Health care professionals sometimes label the stages of swimmer’s ear infections as mild, moderate and advanced.

You usually can manage the pain from a mild case of swimmer’s ear with over the counter pain medication. Placing a heating pad over the ear may help alleviate the pain.

There are some steps you can take to try and avoid a case of swimmer’s ear Don’t swim in water that is polluted. It is probably safer to swim in a chlorinated swimming pool. Wear ear plugs to keep water out of your ears when you swim. Never put anything in your ears and this includes cotton swabs and your fingertips. Use cotton balls when applying hair spray or hair dye. After getting your ears wet dry then gently using a hair dryer on a cool setting.

Again, if you suspect you have a case of swimmer’s ear seek professional help while the problem is still very mild and can be easily treated.