Swimmer’s Ear Q&A with Timothy Tudor, DO

Ear, General Steward Health Care

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear is more precisely known as acute infective otitis externa.  This name suggests a new (acute) infection of the external ear canal and is often related to contaminated water exposure, hence the vernacular name “swimmer’s ear.”

What are the signs and symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear?

Signs and symptoms include ear pain, drainage, swelling and redness of the external ear and ear canal, hearing loss.

What is the treatment for Swimmer’s Ear?

Treatment is typically with topical therapy including antifungal or antibacterial drops.  Antibacterial drops are typically the best choice as infections are not commonly fungal.  Debridement of the ear is also sometimes needed to remove infectious material and drainage depending on the severity of infection.

What precautions can be taken to prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

Precautions include preventing water exposure by wearing earplugs or a cap, or both.  Patients can also use drops designed to dry the ear after swimming that contain alcohol and glycerin which will help prevent recurrent episodes.  A mixture of half alcohol and white vinegar can also be mixed up at home and 3 or 4 drops can be applied to the ears after swimming to help dry them and prevent infection.  Home remedies should be discussed with your physician before using them on your own.

How soon after a diagnosis of Swimmer’s Ear can water activities be resumed?

Patients are usually able to swim again in three to four weeks after the inflammation has reduced.

Timothy Tudor, DO
Otolaryngology (ENT)

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