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Can I Prevent Ear Infections When My Child Swims?

What Is Swimmer's Ear?

Swimmer's ear, or otitis externa, is common in kids who spend a lot of time in the water. Water can sit in the ear canal and lead to irritation and infection of the outer ear.

What Can Help Prevent Swimmer's Ear?

The good news is there are ways to help prevent outer ear infections. Kids can:

  • Wear a bathing cap or removable earplugs when they swim to help keep the ear canals dry.
  • Tip their head from side to side after getting wet to let the water drain out and use a towel to dry the ears.
  • Use a hair dryer on a low, cool setting, at least 12 inches away, to dry their ears.

If your child's ears still aren't drying out, talk to your doctor about using ear drops at the end of a swim. These help dry up the water in the ears and prevent infection. These drops should not be used in kids with ear tubes or a ruptured eardrum.

Kids shouldn't clean their ears with cotton swabs or put any other objects into them. These can scratch the skin and let bacteria or fungi get in. Ear wax is actually good and can protect against swimmer's ear.

Doctors can treat swimmer's ear with antibiotic drops. Kids should stay out of the pool while they recover. Make sure they use the antibiotics for as long as the doctor says, even if they feel better sooner. That's the best way to kill the harmful germs.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date Reviewed: Apr 10, 2023

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