Swimmer’s ear is a common condition caused by bacterial or fungal infections in the ear canal. Swimmer’s ear in kids significantly disrupts their summer fun. It is an irritating and painful condition that typically occurs when water remains trapped in the ear. Unfortunately, a child will have to abstain from certain beloved summer activities until their ear heals. This can be frustrating and disheartening – transforming a season of joy and outdoor fun into a time of discomfort and limitations. By understanding swimmer’s ear, parents can play a crucial role in prevention. Avoiding potential infections can ensure an uninterrupted season of fun in the sun.

What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is medically known as otitis externa. This condition is an inflammation or infection of the outer ear canal. It commonly occurs when water gets trapped in the ear canal after swimming or bathing. The trapped water creates a moist environment promoting the growth of bacteria or fungi. Swimmer’s ear will not get better on its own, if left untreated the infection will worsen and possibly spread.

Signs and symptoms of swimmer’s ear in kids

The major sign of swimmer’s ear is ear pain that worsens as pressure is applied to the outer area of the ear. The affected ear can appear red, swollen and feel itchy. Drainage from the ear can be present and range in color from clear to cloudy to yellowish. In cases where there is drainage present, it can cause hearing difficulties. Oftentimes swimmer’s ear is not accompanied by a fever. 


Treatment for swimmer’s ear varies depending on the severity of the infection. Regardless, if you believe your child has swimmer’s ear, contact your doctor as soon as possible. If left untreated, swimmer’s ear can lead to complications like the infection spreading and may require medical intervention to alleviate the discomfort and restore ear health.

Doctors frequently prescribe antibiotic eardrops and can provide ways to administer the medication even when the ear canal is swollen. In more severe cases, tests may be run on the ear discharge to identify the bacteria or fungi before potentially prescribing antibiotics taken by mouth. Once treatment begins the condition is usually cured within 7-10 days.


Prevention is key to avoiding the pain and irritation that comes with swimmer’s ear. Keep these tips in mind especially when you know your child will be spending a lot of time in the water.

  • Keep ears as dry as possible when in the pool for prolonged periods. Some may want to consider a bathing cap or earplugs.
  • Dry ears off well after swimming and bathing.
  • Encourage the head to be tilted so the ear is facing down and gently pull on the ear to encourage any water to come out. Do this for both ears.
  • If there’s still water in the ear use a hair dryer to help move air within the ear canal. When doing this, keep the hair dryer about a foot away from the ear and use the lowest heat and fan setting. 
  • If you’re considering using ear-drying drops, consult your healthcare provider. These drops should not be used for children with ear tubes, a punctured ear drum, ear drainage, or an existing swimmer’s ear infection. 

In summary

Understanding swimmer’s ear and taking preventive measures is crucial for the well-being and enjoyment of children during the summer season. Swimmer’s ear can cause significant discomfort, and pain leading to the disruption of various water-related activities that kids love. Parents and guardians can use this information to take preventative steps like keeping ears dry, using earplugs, and gently drying the ears after swimming to greatly reduce the risk of infection. By implementing precautions, children can have a safe and enjoyable season, avoiding the summer bummer known as swimmer’s ear. 

Sources: Nemours, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention