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Swimmer's Ear

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is swimmer's ear?

Swimmer's ear, also called otitis externa, is an infection in the outer ear canal. This canal goes from the outside of your ear to your eardrum. Swimmer's ear most often occurs when water remains in your ear after you swim. This creates a moist area for bacteria to grow. Scratches or damage from your fingers, cotton swabs, or other objects can also cause swimmer's ear.

Ear Anatomy

What increases my risk for swimmer's ear?

What are the signs and symptoms of swimmer's ear?

How is swimmer's ear diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms. He or she will examine the inside of your ears.

How is swimmer's ear treated?

Your healthcare provider may clean your outer ear canal first. This will help clean any ear wax, flaky skin, or other discharge. You may then need any of the following:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How do I use ear drops?

How can I prevent swimmer's ear?

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.