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Can I Prevent Ear Infections When My Child Swims?

My daughter swims year round and has recently been getting swimmer's ear. Can these infections be prevented?
- Jovana

Swimmer's ear, or otitis externa, is a common infection among 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.

The good news is that outer ear infections often can be prevented. For starters, your daughter can use a bathing cap or removable earplugs to help keep the ear canals dry. Or, after getting wet, she can tip her head to the side to let the water drain out. She also can use a hair dryer on a low setting, at least 12 inches away, to dry her ears.

If her ears still aren't drying out, talk to your doctor about using ear drops at the end of a swim to help dry up the water in her ears and prevent infection.

Your daughter should not clean her ears with cotton swabs or put any other objects (like bobby pins) in her ears, which can scratch the skin and allow bacteria or fungi to enter. Ear wax is actually good and can protect against swimmer's ear.

Swimmer's ear can be treated with antibiotics, and your daughter should stay out of the pool while she's recovering.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: April 2012