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Swimmer’s Ear


Swimmer’s ear is an infection or irritation of the skin that lines the ear canal. A child gets it when water repeatedly gets trapped in the ear canal; the lining becomes wet and swollen. This makes it prone to superficial infection (swimmer’s ear). Ear canals are meant to be dry.


  • Itchy and somewhat painful ear canal.
  • The ear feels plugged up.
  • Discomfort when the ear is moved up and down.
  • Discharge is slight in amount and clear.

Home care advice for mild swimmer’s ear

  1. White vinegar rinses
  • Rinse the ear canals twice a day with half-strength white vinegar (dilute it with equal parts warm water). EXCEPTION: Ear tubes or hole in eardrum.
  • Start by having your child lie down with the affected ear upward. Fill the ear canal.
  • Wait 5 minutes, and then remove the vinegar rinse by turning the head to the side and moving the ear.
  • This restores the normal acid pH of the ear canal and reduces swelling. Continue until the ear canal returns to normal.
  • Try to keep the ear canals dry.
  • After showers, hair washing, and swimming, help the water run out by turning the head.
  • Avoid cotton swabs because they pack in the earwax. The wax buildup then traps water behind it.
  • If swimmer’s ear is a repeated problem, rinse the ear canals after swimming with a white vinegar-rubbing alcohol solution (equal parts of each).
  1. Pain medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) for pain relief.
  2. Local heat: If pain is moderate to severe, apply a heating pad (set on low) or hot water bottle to outer ear for 20 minutes (caution: avoid burns). This will also increase drainage.
  3. Reduce swimming times: Try to avoid swimming until symptoms are improved. If your child is on a swim team, it is usually alright to continue. Swimming may slow down recovery, but causes no serious harm.
  4. Contagiousness: Swimmer’s ear is not contagious. There is no reason for your child to miss school or daycare.
  5. Expected course: With treatment, symptoms should be improved in 3 days and resolved in 7 days.
  6. Prevention of recurrences
  1. Call your pediatrician if: Ear symptoms last >7 days on treatment or your child becomes worse.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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