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Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's Ear Quick Overview

  • The definition of swimmer's ear is an infection, inflammation, or pain in the ear caused by water trapped in the ear canal. This condition frequently occurs in swimmers, which is why it's known as swimmer's ear but it can occur in anyone, even from showering.
  • The main cause of swimmer's ear is a break in the skin lining of the outer ear or ear canal that allows bacteria or fungi to invade the outer ear. A break in the skin may be caused by scratching the ear area, skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, improperly cleaning your ears with cotton-tipped swabs or other objects inserted in the ear, using devices inserted into the ear (ear plugs, hearing aids, headphones, ear buds, and other devices), or chemicals (hair dyes, bleaches, certain shampoos, hair sprays).
  • Symptoms of swimmer's ear include
  • Swimmer's ear is diagnosed with a history and physical examination of the inside of the ear. Any drainage may be examined under a microscope to determine the type of infection.
  • Home remedies to treat and cure swimmer's ear include avoiding water exposure (including avoiding swimming), applying heat to the affected ear to control pain, and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
  • Medical treatment for swimmer's ear includes medications prescribed for symptom relief, cleaning the affected ear, antibiotics, topical ear remedies, or acidifying, antiseptic, or anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Swimmer's ear may be prevented by using ear plugs when swimming, use of ear drops after swimming to help dry the ear canal, avoiding placing objects in the ear that can scratch the skin of the ear canal and lead to infection, not using cotton swabs to remove earwax from the ears, and drying ears thoroughly after swimming or showering.
  • The prognosis for swimmer's ear is good. Pain from swimmer's ear usually goes away within 24 hours after medical treatment begins, and the infection typically clears up within a week.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/7/2015

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Swimmer's Ear:

Swimmer's Ear - Causes

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Swimmer's Ear - Home Remedies

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Swimmer's Ear - Symptoms

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Swimmer's Ear - Experience

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Swimmer's Ear and Other Ear Infection Symptoms

Swimmer's Ear and Other Ear Infection Symptoms

An infection of the ear canal (the outer ear) is sometimes referred to as swimmer's ear. Signs of an outer ear infection include:

  • Itching or soreness of the ear when touched
  • Ear pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Otitis Externa »

Otitis externa is an inflammation or infection of the external auditory canal and/or auricle.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary