child in swimming pool with goggles

Otitis externa can turn a day at the pool into a doctor’s visit, but you can keep swimming all summer long with the right prevention and treatment tips.

Better known as swimmer’s ear, otitis externa is an infection that can develop when water becomes trapped in your outer ear canal after swimming.

“The moist environment enables bacteria to grow,” said Jessica Pennington, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Primary Care in Berea. “You can also get swimmer’s ear by placing foreign objects in your ear canal, such as cotton swabs or hearing aids.”

Swimmer’s ear occurs more often in children and can cause itching, redness and a clear, odorless drainage. Pulling or touching the outer ear can also be painful for people with swimmer’s ear.

Child ear exam

To avoid this condition, clean ears with a warm cloth after taking a dip. This helps clear water, bacteria and fungi from your ear canals. Drying the outer ear thoroughly after cleaning also helps prevent swimmer’s ear.

Despite your best efforts, it’s not unusual to develop swimmer’s ear every once in a while, especially if you love the water.

“Swimmer’s ear shouldn’t prohibit you from having fun,” Dr. Pennington said. “It’s easily treatable with ear drops and antibiotics, if necessary.”

If you have swimmer’s ear, call 859.313.2255 to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider.