Swimmer's Ear Infection (External Otitis)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Tips for Treating Ear Infections

Quick GuideEar Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

How can swimmer's ear be prevented?

  1. Decrease exposure to water. If you are prone to infections it is advisable that you use an ear plug when you bathe or swim. Swimmer's ear drops or alcohol drops (Swim-EAR®) used in the ear after water exposure followed by drying the ear with a hair dryer held at arms length will often help keep the ear free of moisture
  2. Do not insert instruments, scratch, or use cotton swabs in the ears.
  3. Try to keep the ear free of wax. This may require visits to the doctor to have your ears cleaned.
  4. You should not attempt to put anything into the ear canal (such as a swab) to try to remove ear wax that is deep within the ear canal.
  5. If you already have an ear infection, or if you have a hole in your eardrum, or if you have had ear surgery or ear tubes, first consult your doctor prior to swimming and before you use any type of ear drop.
  6. A preventative ear drop solution can be cheaply and easily made by mixing equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar (50:50 mixture). This solution will increase the rate of evaporation of water in the ear canal and has antibacterial properties. Using this solution to rinse the ear before and after water exposure can serve as a protective measure against infection.
  7. Mineral oil ear drops can be used to protect the ear from water when a dry crusty skin condition exists.

What is the prognosis for swimmer's ear?

Swimmer's ear is a treatable condition that usually resolves quickly with appropriate treatment. Most often, swimmer's ear can be easily treated with antibiotic ear drops. Chronic swimmer's ear may require more intensive treatment. Swimmer's ear typically does not have any long-term or serious complications.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/17/2015

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  • Swimmer's Ear - Symptoms

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  • Swimmer's Ear - Prevention

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  • Swimmer's Ear - Children

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