Swimmer’s Ear

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Acute Otitis Externa, also called swimmer’s ear, is an ear infection which affects the outer part of the ear, and generally occurs during the summer months, due to the fact that people spend more time in the water during the warm months. It is caused by water becoming trapped in the ear, and causing bacteria or fungi microbes to begin to grow and spread in the ear.

Who is at risk?

  1. Children
  2. Teens
  3. Those with eczema
  4. Those with excess ear wax

Typically when a person is exposed to water for an extended period such as in a pool, showers/baths, or other moist environments they are likely to get water trapped in the ear. When the water becomes trapped in the ear canal the bacteria and microbes which are naturally present begin to overrun the ear, multiplying and causing infection to begin.

Other Contributing Factors

  1. Having contact with large amounts of bacteria which are typically present in polluted water or in a jacuzzi.
  2. Over cleaning the ear with q-tips or water irrigation.
  3. Any type of damage/cuts on the ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear can be quite painful and itchy. It also reduces the ability to hear, due to blockage caused by water being trapped in the ear canal.

Additional Symptoms

  1. Drainage
  2. Reduced Hearing
  3. Ear feeling full or blocked
  4. Fever
  5. Extreme pain which radiates out from the ear
  6. Swollen lymph nodes
  7. Ear appearing swollen and red


It is imperative to visit your family physician to seek medical attention to treat swimmer’s ear. Your doctor can examine your ear and give you a proper diagnosis. Typically swimmer’s ear is treated by clearing the ear canal and prescribing ear-drops to reduce the inflammation, and begin to fight off the bacteria/fungi which are over-running the ear canal.

When the infection is more severe your family physician may have to place a sponge or wick in the canal to allow the antibiotic drops to enter the ear adequately. Oral antibiotics are another option which is used if the infection has spread past the ear canal.


It is important to attend your follow up appointment with your family doctor to be sure that your infection is clearing up. Your doctor will also make use of these appointment to possibly clean your ear canal, or to replace the wick if you had an extensive infection with severe swelling. Typically ear infections clear up within 7-10 days when proper treatment is sought quickly.


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