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What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear, also called tropical ear or otitis externa, is an infection in the outer ear canal normally caused by excess moisture in the canal. Swimmer’s ear is very painful and requires a doctor’s diagnosis as it must be treated with antibiotic drops.

However, there are several ways you can help prevent swimmer’s ear.

Before you swim

Swimming in dirty water will make you more like to develop an outer ear infection, so stick to swimming in fresh or well treated water.

Ear plugs can be used to prevent water entering the ear canal. Silicone or plastic ear plugs are most recommended (not foam). There is even a fun range of colourful ear plugs for kids who struggle with swimmer’s ear. If the ear plugs keep falling out, then adding a swimming cap over the ears or a specialised swimming ear band will help to keep them in.

After you swim

After swimming, tilt your head to each side to allow the water to drain. You can also try gently drying the ear with a hairdryer – make sure you use the lowest heat setting and keep it at least 30cm away from your ear.

There are also ear drops which can help. These ear drops encourage the water to dry from the ear while also creating a slightly acidic environment which makes it harder for bacteria to grow and cause an infection. These ear drops are gentle enough to use every time you swim and are easily available from your local pharmacy.

Swimming is a big part of summer for most people in North Queensland. But taking a little care with your ears could save you a lot of pain and a troublesome trip to your GP.