Swimming is a fun activity and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. A dip in the pool, day out at the beach sure does sound fun, or even when done regularly to stay in good shape. Although we need to be careful while indulging in a productive swimming session. But seldom are we aware of the ill effects of swimming. And so moments of leisure could clearly become those of terror. Like every other choice, you make in life, swimming to needs to be undertaken with precautions.

How could swimming turn out to be an unpleasant experience for us?

During swimming, water tends to settle in areas of our body with openings. For example, water entering your ears and staying put in the ear canal, which begins from the eardrum and extends to the outside of our ear. The water that gets clogged in your ears post swimming can cause various types of infections. These are painful, occur in the outer area of your ears and can develop at any point in time. Since there is no stipulated time of staying in the water, which can bring on such a situation. We can never pre-determine that swimmer’s ear occurs or can be avoided by staying in the waters for X-amount of time. But what we can control is working with precautionary measures for a glorious time out in the waters.

swimmer ear pain

What is the science behind swimmer’s ear?

Researchers all over the world have studied the ill effects of swimming over the years. The one study that stood out was that every swimmer was prone to otitis externa or commonly known as the swimmer’s ear, an acute condition found in our eardrum. Excessive moisture and water-logging in the ear can cause irritation, harden the area and ultimately cause tearing or breaking of the skin. Thus letting pathogens like bacteria and fungi to enter the ear canal and settle there to develop an ear infection. Pseudomonas aeruginosa represents the most known category of pathogens found to cause ear problems in swimmers.

It is crucial to know that swimmer’s ear occurs majorly to swimmers and during summertime, as swimming is mostly preferred then. However, not all cases of swimmer’s ears have been observed in people who swim. This infection can affect an individual with compromised personal hygiene. Dry skin, uncontrolled scratching of the ear, compulsive cleaning of the ear with a foreign object such as hairpins, pens and pencils trigger the chance of otitis externa. Swimmer’s ear and middle ear infection: if you were to develop a cut or wound which accumulates pus in the middle section of the ear then it could secrete to the ear canal and lead to infection of the inner ear.

As a result, how can one determine whether he or she has swimmer’s ear?

symptoms of swimmers ear

Ear pain is the chief symptom of swimmer's ear. Pain usually heightens on contact - when the ear is pulled or pressed. The patient may experience difficulty in chewing while eating. The distressed area acts itchy and causes discomfort. The external ear may look red or swollen, lymph nodes start popping around the ear, which can come out big in size and feel soft on the surface. Once in a while, the ear secretes watery release. It can be clear at first and later turn cloudy, yellowish, and pus-like.

There has in addition been a record of cases where the patients have experienced hearing loss. When the sensitivity of internal ear parts is conceded, the infection can even spread to the brain. This happens because our ears are protected with millions of tiny hair cells, which are responsible for registering sound. Fragile to the core, our hearing nerve cells are hard to restore. If an infection were to grip them, it would be probable for the person to lose hearing forever, if care has not been taken immediately. Hence, in cases of experiencing even a slight decrease in your hearing capacity, visit a health care practitioner stat.

Fever typically isn't run of the mill sighting by and large in the symptoms of swimmer’s ears.

Known case symptoms include otorrhea, vertigo, tinnitus, and otalgia. These usually surface post swimming in waters that could slightly mucky or contaminated by dust and other elements.

Paroxysmal positional vertigo is another possibility that can emerge through swimming. Rest assured it is benign and easily treatable. What happens in this condition is that your vestibular system, situated within the inner crevice of your ear gets affected. Other possible health issues that can erupt because of swimming are:

  • Otomycosis
  • Traumatic eardrum perforation
  • Inner ear barotraumas
  • Middle ear infection
  • Exostoses


Can you prevent otitis externa or swimmer's ear?

It is very much possible to get rid of the swimmer’s ear. Even though post swimming there is a good chance that little bit of water will line up in the insides of your ear. The feeling is definitely discomforting and could produce catastrophic malformations on your body organs if you do not strain out the water immediately.

Thus, it is advised to prevent the water from getting logged in the ear canal to prevent forming of deadly ear infection or the swimmer’s ear. Afterwards, you should search for symptoms that signal a complication. This helps in availing treatment and avoiding further worsening of one’s condition.

One can easily opt for over the counter diluted medicines containing acetic acid or even alcohol for that matter. The solutions are usually found as drops in pharmacies and can be bought without the need of a prescription. These antibiotics laden ear drops should be used throughout the day for multiple times for about seven to ten days. Although care must be taken for anyone who is suffering whether or not their ear has formed an unusual hole. So as to avoid the medicine from leaking away.

Tips to stop swimmer's ear before it starts at home

swimmer ear how to cope with

Once outside of the pool or any water body, here is what you have got to do:

  • Shake your earlobes, drip out excess water while keeping your head tilted, ears facing the ground. Even lying down sideways propped on your arm helps.


  • Find any drying source, a blow dryer, a steamer that will dry out the moisture and clear your ear canal. Be careful to not burn your ears out by maintaining distance. As the innards of your ears are extremely sensitive.


  • Make a solution of vinegar and liquor and use it as ear drops to dry the water. This combination will also aid in loosening the junk that blocks your eardrum.


  • Steam can be an effective tool for unclogging your ear of moisture. Post swimming try getting into a steam room or get home a portable steam machine for instant relief.


  • Wear good fitting earplugs while swimming. Many medicated options are available and you must not compromise on quality when it comes to such things.


  • Maintain a regular ear cleaning habit. Proper ear wax hygiene will establish all the difference and relieve you from diseases. If you tend to gather copious amount of earwax, avoid cleansing it yourself. Improper ear cleaning can cause more problems than you can think. Therefore you must visit a health expert to clean it.


  • Swimmer’s ears or not, using basic ear drops for routine cleaning is a great way to keep your eardrums bacteria free. Just ask your pharmacist, and he can suggest some pliable options without a prescription.


  • Home remedies like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and olive oil also work best in clearing water, should you need relief without having to step outside.


Seek professional help !

seek professional help from ear doctor


A sure shot cure for your problem can be taken care only by an ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat) specialist.

One visit is all it takes for an expert to decide how deep your trouble is. Since in the case of an extreme swelling it might get difficult for you to use the drops, you should visit an ENT. The doctor may use a wick to provide passage in your ear. Or he may have to clean the pus-filled, skin waste clogged area to clear the way for ear drops to slide in.

The ENT may also prescribe oral antibiotics to patients with severe malformations after testing the discharge from the infected ear. To understand whether it is a bacteria caused or a fungal disease.

Under usual circumstances, every bacterial or fungal disease takes seven to ten days of recovery post initiating the treatment. Rest assured an ENT can judge which method to relieve the swimmer’s ear works best for you.

To conclude, we have tried rounding off all areas that throw light on what otitis externa is and how you can with the right aid prevent developing swimmer's ears. Accordingly, you can implement precautionary measures and enjoy swimming tension free. Do let us know if you’ve heard of instances which could solve, help prevent the swimmer’s ear with other home remedies. We are all ears!