How to Prevent and Treat Swimmer’s Ear (With Examples) | Pengu Swim School


Swimmers Ear

How to Prevent and Treat Swimmer’s Ear (With Examples)

Last updated: February 23, 2019

If you’ve been swimming your whole life (like a lot of us here at Pengu) chances are you’ve had otitis externa at least once or twice. What is otitis externa, you ask? It’s swimmer’s ear! That dull pain near the outside of your ear that gets worse as the days go on.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection typically born from bacteria in water that is transferred and lives in the ear. If the ear is not properly drained of water (this occurs through excessive swimming) or you have slight abrasions in the ear, swimmer’s ear can become a major issue.

Some symptoms include:

  • Redness near the outer ear
  • Itching in the ear
  • Pain and discomfort that worsens if bothered

If untreated these symptoms can get worse:

  • Increased pain
  • Discharge of pus
  • Decreased ability to hear

These are just a few of the symptoms of swimmer’s ear. As it worsens, you could have severe swelling at the sight (and in the lymph nodes), complete blockage and possibly fever. But if you feel that you may have any of these symptoms, always consult your physician first.

Now that we’ve gotten through all of the technical jargon and disclaimers, here are a few tips you can use to prevent and treat swimmer’s ear from a swimmer’s perspective.

Dry your ears after each swim

This one seems like a given but it’s not so easy to remember all the time. You get out and dry your body and your hair but there still may be water left over that you expect will air dry.

A lot of that excess water is in and around your ears. It takes nothing to do a little extra swipe around those ears to make sure you’ve removed as much water as possible. Set yourself up for success by completing a full towel dry each time you get out of the pool.

Create a swimming schedule

If you’ve taken up swimming as a hobby but you’re not on the swim team, you most likely swim whenever you’ve got the time. Either at the gym or at your neighborhood swimming pool. A good tip is to not overdo it. A lot of people (especially newer swimmers) tend to try and go swimming as-as many times as the opportunity will present itself.
Creating a swimming schedule based off your weekly routine is a good way to not overdo it for your ears as well as your muscles. Start out by going swimming once or twice a week. If your body adjusts well to that, you can add a few more days to your routine.


Earplugs are the easiest and (quite possibly) the simplest form of protection in the fight against swimmer’s ear. There are a few different types of earplugs to choose from.

Silicone earplugs are moldable to the ear canal. Rubber earplugs go a little bit deeper in the ear canal so those may hold better, but it will be harder to hear. Foam earplugs are also useful but they don’t fit the best in the ears.

A natural earplug would be a cotton swab with a little bit of petroleum jelly on the end of it. But this works best under a swim cap.

A quick Amazon search will help you find the right earplugs for you.

Search a few suitable keywords such as “swimmer’s ear prevention” and that is sure to help in your quest to keep swimmer’s ear at bay. Now that we’ve got some tips on preventing swimmer’s ear, here are a few tips on how to treat it once you’ve got it.

Take a break!

If you’ve got swimmer’s ear already, it’s best to take a break from the pool. There is nothing that will make it worse other continuing to stay in the environment that caused the damage. Mild and severe symptoms have already been mentioned above. The best recommendation, of course, is to go see your doctor as soon as you may suspect that you have it.

We know swimming is fun and a great workout, but if it’s negatively affecting your health it would behoove you to take a step back and recover. Try and focus on some dryland exercises that swimmers use when they are not in the water. Once you’ve fully recovered, you’ll be prepared to get back into your usual routine.

Ear drops

There are tons of ear drops that can help to treat swimmer’s ear. Doctors typically prescribe stronger drops than what can be bought over the counter. There are ear drops that help to dry the ear and the most famous is Swim-Ear. It can be purchased at almost any pharmacy.

Mineral oil drops also help to clear out any blockage that may prevent the ears from draining properly, particularly ear wax. And if you have swimmer’s ear you’ll want to keep those ear canals as clear as possible.

Steer clear of insertable objects

We know, we all want to put a cotton swab or q-tip in our ear to help get the water out. And let’s face it, sometimes it feels good to get all the gunk out. But using these objects can have an adverse effect on the healing process.

The ear canal could possibly be damaged due to scratching (remember that itchy ear symptom?) and using a foreign object on these small abrasions can worsen the symptoms and cause more harm than good.

In conclusion, we’ve given you a few important tips on how to prevent swimmer’s ear and acquainted you with a few ways to treat it. Now that you’ve been briefed on the best way to protect yourself from and treat swimmer’s ear, stop in at Pengu today to sign up for swim lessons.


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