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?

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 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, 12 inches away, to dry her ears.

If her ears still aren't drying out, talk to your doctor about using alcohol 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 other objects (like bobby pins), 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. Your doctor will probably recommend that she stay out of the pool while she's recovering.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: March 2009

Have a question? Email us.

Although we can't reply personally, you may see your question posted to this page in the future. If you're looking for medical advice, a diagnosis, or treatment, consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional. If this is an emergency, contact emergency services in your area.

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2016 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.