Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal. It occurs when water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time. This creates an environment where germs can grow and infect the skin. The symptoms include itchiness inside the ear, pain when the ear is tugged or pressure is placed, redness and swelling, and pus draining from ear. Swimmer’s ear is most common in children and can be painful. Simmer’s ear and a middle ear infection are not the same. Being able to comfortably wiggle your outer ear means it is probably not swimmer’s ear.

How Do I Avoid It?

The simplest way to avoid swimmer’s ear is to keep your ears as dry as possible. The use of ear plugs, bathing caps, and others when swimming. Thoroughly drying your ears after swimming or showering is also a simple way to avoid this form of infection. Tilting your head so each ear is facing down and moving the earlobe in different directions will allow water to escape the ear canal. You can also use a towel or put a hair dryer on the lowest heat and speed/fan setting and hold it inches from the ear. This will move air within the ear canal and free the water.


It is easy to make a bad situation worse, especially with swimmer’s ear and other ear infections. Removing water from the ear can become a sticky situation if you use tools that should not be used. Do not put objects in the ear canal or try to remove ear wax. This includes fingers and cotton-tip swabs. It is possible to push the water or ear wax further into your ear, compacting it and making the situation worse. Ear wax is in the ear to prevent infection. If you are struggling with an excess amount of ear wax, visiting an ENT would be the safest option.

If you or a loved one is struggling with swimmer’s ear, Dr. Joseph Russell at National Allergy & ENT can help. To schedule an appointment please call (843) 576-3302 or schedule online.


Source: CDC