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Can I Prevent Ear Infections When My Child Swims?

My daughter swims year-round and has started getting swimmer's ear. Can we prevent these infections?
Jovana

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.

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

  • Wear a bathing cap or removable earplugs when she swims to help keep the ear canals dry.
  • Tip her head from side to side after getting wet to let the water drain out.
  • 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. These 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 in her ears. 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. Your daughter should stay out of the pool while she's recovering. Make sure she uses the antibiotics for as long as the doctor says, even if she feels better sooner. That's the best way to kill the harmful germs.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: November 2019