How to Prevent Ear Infections After Swimming

Ear Infections

Jul 28, 2023


When temperatures rise, there’s nothing more refreshing and fun than a dip in the pool with the family. However, this fun activity for cooling off can take a turn for the worse if someone, especially a child, contracts an ear infection like swimmer’s ear. The pain and irritation caused by these common infections can put a damper on any day if you’re not prepared.

This is the most common ear infection associated with swimming and typically affects children more often than adults. Swimmer’s ear can be a painful annoyance for those unaware of how to prevent ear infections after swimming.

In that spirit, here are some helpful prevention tips for you to take note of as part of our pool safety tips for summer!

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Also known as otitis externa, swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection that is caused by water staying in the outer ear canal (a tube that goes from the opening of the ear to the eardrum) for a long period of time, allowing bacteria to grow.

A person can contract swimmer’s ear by swimming or submerging themselves in unclean water. Unfortunately, pool water is not always the cleanest water, especially if you’re swimming in a public pool. Because of this, bacteria in pool water can make their way into your ears — and if you don’t take preventive action pre- and post-swimming, that bacteria can turn into an infection.

Swimmer’s ear can also occur even if you’re not swimming! Humidity and moisture are the main culprits at play meaning you can get an infection from taking a shower or a bath, or even staying in a humid area for too long without drying your ears.

Why do I keep getting ear infections after swimming?

Funnily enough, swimmers are not more at-risk of getting swimmer’s ear than anyone else. If you get frequent ear infections, particularly after swimming, there may be other issues at hand. For instance, having a skin condition that affects the ear canal such as eczema or psoriasis can make you more susceptible to contracting swimmer’s ear. Individuals who wear hearing aids or earplugs are also more at risk since those items can trap bacteria and water in the ears as well.

Swimmer’s ear symptoms

Unsure if you or your child have swimmer’s ear? The following symptoms could be present if there is water and bacteria trapped in the ear:

  • Redness around the ear
  • An itching feeling in the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • A full or plugged-up feeling in the ear
  • Muffled hearing
  • Yellow or green pus draining from the ear
  • Fever (Continue reading: When should you go to the ER with a fever?)

Knowing how to prevent ear infections after swimming is all the more important because bacteria in pool water is essentially a guarantee, and you can’t ever know if the water is truly clean. So, how do you prevent swimmer’s ear?

Continue reading: What are the most common injuries in the summertime?

How to prevent swimmer’s ear

Our tips for how to prevent ear infections after swimming are pretty simple. You basically want to keep your and your children’s ears as dry as possible before, during, and after your time in the water. Here are some pointers to prevent swimmer’s ear.

  • Avoid putting anything into your ears before and after swimming (example: cotton swabs, fingers, etc.).
  • Dry ears as thoroughly as possible immediately after swimming using a towel. If you have a child, help them do this.
  • Don’t clean your ears before swimming. Ear wax can actually help prevent water and bacteria from getting trapped in your ears.
  • Use ear drops to help clear out any bacteria.

Check with your child’s healthcare provider before using any ear drops to prevent any other infections. If your child has ear tubes, punctured or injured eardrums, or currently has an ear infection, do not use any type of drops or other treatment methods, and take them to a Complete Care facility for treatment.

How to treat swimmer’s ear

Mild cases of swimmer’s ear can go away on their own within a couple of weeks, but we would still suggest that you seek treatment. If you or your child experience any of these painful symptoms in your ears, we recommend heading to a Complete Care facility to have a professional take a look, especially if a fever is present or if you lose hearing in either or both ears.

The best treatment for swimmer’s ear would be prescribed antibiotic ear drops that can clear up the infection within a week. If drops are not a safe solution or the infection has spread beyond the outer ear, oral antibiotics can be prescribed. Over-the-counter pain medications may also be a part of your treatment plan to alleviate any pain.

Rubbing, scratching, or touching your ears is not advised when you have an ear infection. If your child is having a hard time keeping their hands off of their ears, have them place a warm, dry towel over the infected ear.

Get swimmer’s ear treatment at Complete Care

Now that you know how to prevent ear infections after swimming, you can better protect yourself and your children this summer. In the event that someone starts experiencing serious ear pain after swimming, Complete Care is here to help.

Our freestanding emergency room facilities see both adult and pediatric patients. Our medical staff can treat both mild and severe ear infections in children and adults to alleviate any discomfort or pain.

We want everyone to have a safe and fun summer free of infections and pain — but in the event an ailment or injury arises, we’ve got you. Come by any of our 24/7 ER locations in Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs! Here’s to safe swimming!

More Helpful Articles by Complete Care: