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Tips to Avoid and Treat Swimmer’s Ear

Do you know the facts about this infection of the outer ear and ear canal? Take this quiz to find out. Determine if the following statements are true or false. The correct answers appear below.

1. You can only get swimmer’s ear from swimming.
2. It’s hard to tell the difference between swimmer’s ear and a regular ear infection.
3. Antibiotics are the usual treatment for this infection.
4. Over-the-counter (OTC) drops can help prevent swimmer’s ear.


1.      False. It’s true that people often get swimmer’s ear from swimming in polluted water or getting water in their ear during a swim in the pool. But the condition also can develop from scratching the ear or inside of the ear while cleaning it or from getting something stuck in the ear.

2.      False. While both conditions are painful, common childhood middle ear infections don’t cause pain in the outer ear. With swimmer’s ear, it usually hurts to wiggle your ear or to pull on it. Other symptoms include itching in the ear, redness and swelling, pus draining from the ear, and muffled hearing.

3.      True. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotic ear drops. If your ear canal is very swollen, your doctor may place a wick in the ear to help drops penetrate far enough. If you have a middle ear infection at the same time, or an infection that spreads beyond your ear, you may need oral antibiotics. OTC medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve pain.

4.      True. Talk with your doctor about using ear drops after swimming. Also important: After swimming or showering, dry ears well with a towel. If you still have water in your ear, you can try using a hair dryer set on the lowest setting, held several inches away from your ear.

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