Swimmers Ear

This is an infection of the outer ear and ear canal, causing it to be red and swollen. It is also known as "otitis externa."




This is an infection of the outer ear and ear canal, causing it to be red and swollen. It is also known as "otitis externa."



Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) is an infection of the outer ear and ear canal, causing it to become red and swollen. It can also lead to symptoms such as itchiness and pain. It can occur in people that swim a lot or irritate the ear canal by:

  • Scratching the inside of their ear
  • Inserting something in the ear (such as a cotton swab)
  • Getting something stuck in the ear

Unlike middle ear infections (otitis media), swimmer's ear is rarely seen with colds or other upper respiratory infections. The symptoms of swimmer's ear can include:

  • Ear drainage that can be varying shades of yellow or other colors
  • Ear drainage that smells bad
  • Ear pain that increases when the outer ear is touched or pulled
  • Temporary loss of hearing
  • Itchiness of the ear
  • Redness and swelling inside the ear
  • Scaling of skin from inside the ear

Treatment is usually with antibiotic eardrops. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe eardrops that contain a medication to decrease swelling and itching, over-the-counter pain medications and eardrops containing vinegar. Holding a warm compress over the affected ear can help decrease symptoms.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of swimmer's ear. Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).

  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms, how long you have had them, if you have had them before and if they are progressing or changing.
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • What is the treatment for swimmer's itch? What options are available?
  • How long will it take my symptoms to improve?
  • What are some of the complications of swimmer's itch? Am I at high risk for complications?
  • If medication is recommended, how long will I need to take it? What are the possible side effects?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?
  • Do I need to see a specialist?

Source UHC.com

Also known as:

Swimmers Ear
Outer Ear Infection
Otitis Externa
Infected Ear
Ear Infection


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