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"Swimmer's Ear" in Children

Updated on September 29, 2014

Children's Swimmer's Ear is Painful

Swimmer's ear in children is a condition that can cause excruciating pain. Water entering the ear canal is the main culprit. Our little one had swimmer's ear while we were spending our week at the seashore and we ended up in our room for two days after scurrying to find a doctor.

Just a few precautionary steps could have saved our child from the pain of an earache and us from worrying and rushing to find a doctor while away from home.



What is "Swimmer's Ear"?

The condition known as 'swimmer's ear" is the medical condition otitis externa. It is an infection of the skin that lines the ear canal. It is very common in children and symptoms will usually be present within a day or two after swimming or playing in the water.

When water from the pool, lake or ocean stays in the ear canal for an extended period it creates the perfect enviornment for germs to grow. These germs will cause an infecion in the ear canal which then causes pain and discomfort.

Swimmer's ear is not the same as a middle ear infection and there is a way to find out which condition is causing the pain. Grasp the ear lightly and wiggle it gently back and forth, if your child expieriences pain or discomfort chances are good it is swimmer's ear.


Swimmer’s ear is not contagious and cannot be spread from one person to another.

Symptom's of Swimmer's Ear

These are the signs that your child has swimmer's ear. Any one of these symptoms after the child has been in the water will alert you that there is a problem.

  1. The child will complain of itching in the ear.
  2. If pressure is put on the ear or the ear is pulled the child will complain of pain.
  3. There will be some redness and swelling of the child's ear.
  4. If left untreated, pus will drain from the child's ear.

Otitis Externa is a Skin Infection of the Outer Ear Canal.

Swimmer's Ear Occurs in the External Auditory Canal

By Chittka L, Brockmann

Click on image for credits

Preventing Swimmer's Ear - Some Steps for You and Your Family

There are things you can do to protect your family from the pain of swimmer's ear.

  1. Keep water out of your ears by using a bathing cap, ear plugs, or individually fitted swim molds while in the water.
  2. Dry your ears after being in the water. Use a towel while turning your head to let the water drain out of each ear.
  3. If there is still water in the ear canal use a blow dryer on low-warm several inches from the ear until dry.
  4. Check with your doctor if the ear starts to feel swollen or painful or if it begins to drain. Antibiotics are usually needed to treat otitis externa.

Ear Plugs - Keep the Water Out

If used properly, ear plugs do a good job of keep the water out of the ear canal.

How Safe Are Your Family's Ears?

Do you insist all little swimmers wear ear plugs?

See results

This Band Really Works - Keeps the water out.

EAR BAND-IT Swimming Headband – SMALL (ages 1-3 yrs) – Invented by Physician – Keep Water Out, Hold Ear Plugs In – The ORIGINAL Swimmer’s Headband – Doctor Recommended – Secure Earplugs (Magenta)
EAR BAND-IT Swimming Headband – SMALL (ages 1-3 yrs) – Invented by Physician – Keep Water Out, Hold Ear Plugs In – The ORIGINAL Swimmer’s Headband – Doctor Recommended – Secure Earplugs (Magenta)

This band does a great job of keeping the water out of your child's ears when used with their earplugs. The band comes in small, medium and large and it is important to measure your childs head to get the correct size. Older children (3+) do very well using this band and the earaches can be a thing of the past. The band was developed by a doctor to help protect children's ears.

Child in the Pool with Cap
Child in the Pool with Cap

A Bathing Cap Helps Keep the Water Out

When used with earplugs it works to keep the ear dry.

Use a Bathing Cap - Combined with earplugs for the best protection.

Prevent Swimmer's Ear - Drys and Sooths

Mack's EarDryer
Mack's EarDryer

Anytime there is water in the ear, either after swimming or bathing this is the product to have on hand. It gently uses warm air to dry and blow the water out -- when the air feels cool the ears are dry. Using Mack's EarDryer will help keep you and your children out of the doctor's office.


Mild Swimmer's Ear - Some home-care advice.

If your little one has mild swimmer's ear with no fever you can start some treatment at home. Swimmer's ear symptoms begin by being mild and get worse if the infection isn't treated or spreads. Mild swimmer's ear may have a discharge but it will be a clear, odorless fluid without a sign of infection. Your doctor should always be consulted but there are some things you can do.

  1. Nonprescription swimmer's eardrops will often help dry out the ear moisture. There are several brands on the market such as Star-Otic or Swim-Ear. The drops should be applied before and after swimming or getting your ears wet.
  2. Use an ear drying machine to dry the moisture in the child's ear.
  3. Apply a warm washcloth to the ear. (making sure not to get more water in the ear) This will often ease the discomfort.
  4. Give your child their regular pain reliever. This will help ease any pain if there is no infection.
  5. Do not attempt to wear any earplugs, hearing aids or headphones until pain or discharge has stopped.
  6. Be very careful not to allow water to enter the ear while bathing. Do not allow swimming until the ear is back to normal.
  7. If the child's symptoms become more severe or a fever developes, get immediate medical attention.

According to the Center for Disease Control: "In the United States, swimmer's ear results in an estimated 2.4 million health care visits every year and nearly half a billion dollars in health care costs."


Drying Ear Drops - Helps dry any moisture in the ear.

This is a great help in preventing severe swimmer's ear.

Information and Statistics from CDC at


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    • profile image

      tonyleather 4 years ago

      I really appreciate the work that went into this excellent lens!

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 5 years ago

      I used to have swimmer's ear frequently when I was a child. They had me put hydrogen peroxide in my ears after swimming...I'm sure these drying drops work much better!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Good information on swimmer's ear. My grandkids swim and don't seem to have this problem but a nephew had to use drops after swimming for it.

    • MrMojo01 profile image

      MrMojo01 5 years ago

      When I was a kid I got swimmer's ear constantly. It is awful!

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 5 years ago

      I remember having this when I was very young during the time I had swimming lessons, I still remember how much it hurt!

    • profile image

      mizrae 5 years ago

      As usual, lens' masters step up to the plate with very useful information.

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      A friend of ours son was always getting swimmer's ear - it was very painful for him. Thank-you for bringing to light these tips for addressing and preventing the problem.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      I guess our family is lucky ... I lived in the water growing up - pools, the ocean, rivers, springs ... as did my kid, and my grandkids. I don't remember any instances of swimmer's ear.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a little one suffer we an ear ache and your information has everyone armed with what to do to prevent swimmers ear as well as treatment. Done with excellence and what a great diagram you found. Blessing those sweet ears!

    • Sky-lab LM profile image

      Sky-lab LM 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this knowledge - I had no idea such thing as "swimmers ear" even exists.

    • bwet profile image

      bwet 5 years ago

      great lens on swimmers ears. easy to understand

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Hi! I have never personally found bathing caps that would really keep out the water.. but if your child does get an inflammation or infection due to the water getting in.. using a little olive oil with tea tree or lavender added, or using my special garlic ear cure (lens to come) will do the trick! Blessed!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Very nicely put together lens here - very useful info, indeed. Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Nice lens on the subject of swimmers ear survivoryea. I suffered two or three bouts a summer from the early sixties through the late seventies, If you care about your children also have them checked for allergies, inflamation of the auditory canal can also set it off. Its not always enough to keep their ears dry. I am in my mid fifties now and have moderate to severe hearing loss in my left ear and extremely severe lose in my right ear.

    • beaworkathomemom profile image

      beaworkathomemom 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this useful information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens. Thanks for your information.

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      I didn't know it was so painful. Thanks for the knowledge you passed on.

    • amkatee profile image

      amkatee 5 years ago

      I need one of those swim caps for my daughter!! She has to keep her ears dry while they heal.

    • lclchors profile image

      lclchors 5 years ago

      geat information

    • Ninche profile image

      Ninche 5 years ago

      Very helpful, I like your lens. Congratulations on your purple star!