FAQ: Swimmer's ear


Frequently Asked Questions:  Swimmer's ear

How is an outer ear infection treated?

Ear drops are the preferred medication to help treat outer ear infections, also known as “swimmers ear”.  The ear drops are usually a combination of an antibiotic (to treat the bacterial infection) and steroid (to help reduce pain and inflammation in the ear canal). 

If my child starts to feel better after being on drops, it is okay to stop the medication early?

Be sure to finish all the medicine, even if you feel better after a few days.

Are there any tips for giving my child ear drops?

When you use ear drops, your child should:

  • Lie on his side or tilt his head with the affected ear facing “up” or towards the ceiling. 
  • Make sure the ear drops go into the ear canal (it helps to pull the outer ear away from the body as the drops go in)
  • After the ear drops are in the ear canal, stay in the same position for 20 minutes 

Are there any other medications that may be helpful?

Motrin or Tylenol may be used to relieve pain

What else should I do during treatment?

It is important to keep the inside of your ear dry while the infection heals. You should not swim for 7 to 10 days after starting treatment. But you can take a shower. To keep the ear dry during a shower, put some Vaseline on a cotton ball, and then put the cotton ball in your outer ear, covering the opening of your ear canal. 

When should I call my health care professional?

If symptoms are not better 2 days after starting treatment, call your doctor

Can an outer ear infection be prevented?

Reduce your chances of getting an outer ear infection by not sticking things in your ears, or cleaning inside your ears. The inside of the ears do not usually need to be cleaned. It is normal to have some ear wax in your ears, as it is a natural way to protect the ear canal.