Swimmer’s ear is a common problem that can cause pain and discomfort for children and swimmers of all ages. In the United States, swimmer’s ear results in an estimated 2.4 million health care visits every year and nearly half a billion dollars in health care costs (1). Below are answers to the most common questions regarding swimmer’s ear and healthy swimming.

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear (also known as otitis externa) is an infection of the outer ear canal. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear usually appear within a few days of swimming and include:
  • Itchiness inside the ear.
  • Redness and swelling of the ear.
  • Pain when the infected ear is tugged or when pressure is placed on the ear.
  • Pus draining from the infected ear.
Although all age groups are affected by swimmer’s ear, it is more common in children and can be extremely painful.

How is Swimmer’s Ear Spread at Recreational Water Venues?

Swimmer’s ear can occur when water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time, providing the perfect environment for germs to grow and infect the skin. Germs found in pools and at other recreational water venues are one of the most common causes of swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear cannot be spread from one person to another. If you think you have swimmer’s ear, consult your health care provider. Swimmer’s ear can be treated with antibiotic ear drops.