You’ve just finished a few laps in the pool, but can’t shake the feeling of fluid in your ear.

No matter what you do, your ear remains “full.” Eventually, you develop the itching and pain that are telltale signs of swimmer’s ear.

No one wants their time in the water to result in this uncomfortable condition, so we’ve provided some useful tips to help you avoid this common ear infection

Swimmer’s ear (also called acute otitis externa) occurs anytime water stays in your ear canal for a long time, setting the stage for bacteria and germs to infect the delicate skin of your ear.

While swimmer’s ear can occur any time of year---and by activities other than swimming---it’s often more common in the summer, when you and your children spend more time in the pool, ocean or lakes. 

The most common causes of swimmer’s ear are germs that may be frequently found in water parks and in pools. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 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.

5 Ways to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

What are the symptoms of swimmer’s ear?

  • Itching that comes from inside the ear.

  • A “blocked” or “full” feeling, caused by fluid in the ear.

  • Ear drainage.

  • Fever.

  • Difficulty hearing.

  • Red and swollen skin near the ear.

According to the Mayo Clinic, swimmer’s ear can also present more serious symptoms as it progresses, such as:

  • Pus discharge.

  • Swollen lymph nodes.

  • Complete blockage of the ear canal.

  • Intense pain in your face, neck and head.

If you suspect you have swimmer’s ear, it’s very important to get treatment from one of our physicians at RCENT. Delaying treatment can lead to a more serious ear infection or even hearing loss. Bone and cartilage damage is also possible if you don’t seek treatment in a timely manner, according to information from the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

5 Useful Tips for Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are several different ways you can help prevent swimmer’s ear. 

1. When swimming, keep your ears as dry as possible.

Use a swim cap or ear plugs. We can also provide customized ear molds that can be used for swimming. 

2. Make sure to dry your ears thoroughly after swimming.

Remember to use a towel and tilt your head with the ear facing downward to allow gravity to help water leave your ear canal. You can also gently pull your earlobe in different directions to encourage drainage. Do NOT use Q-tips or cotton swabs. 

3. Don’t swim in polluted water.

If you use a pool or hot tub, be sure that the facility regularly disinfects it and checks the pH levels. This makes it less likely to spread germs. You may even decide to use your own pool test strips to check it for yourself if you’re not sure.

4. Protect your earwax.

What’s so important about earwax? It not only protects your ear canal from infection, but it helps keep water out of your ear. There’s no need to clean ear wax out of your ear—in fact, it normally moves through the ear on its own.

5. Don’t put objects in your ear canal.

How does this help you avoid swimmer’s ear? Objects such as cotton swabs, fingers or even pencils can scratch or irritate the skin of your ear. This irritation can provide an opening for bacteria.

Before you try any home remedies for swimmer’s ear, you should call us and schedule an appointment.

While pharmacies and retailers sell over-the-counter ear drops to help with swimmer’s ear, this is not the appropriate choice for everyone. In fact, drops should not be used by those with ear tubes or those who have had extensive damage to the eardrum.

If you have any ear drainage, please see us before using any over-the-counter remedies.

Need an Ear Doctor in Raleigh? See Why Raleigh Capitol ENT is the Practice of Choice for the Triangle Area

As otolaryngologists, we specialize not only in treating diseases of the ear, nose and throat, but we also have extensive expertise in facial plastic surgery and advanced sinus and allergy treatment. We skillfully combine compassionate care with the latest surgical innovations. We welcome the opportunity to treat you, so schedule an appointment today.


Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area's premiere physician-owned ENT practice with seven convenient locations throughout Wake County. Our board-certified physicians have extensive experience in treating both common and complex cases to help adults and children alike. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.


American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. “Swimmer’s Ear.” Online. 

Centers for Disease Control. “Healthy Swimming.” Online. 

Mayo Clinic. “Swimmer’s Ear.” Online.