Otitis Externa (Swimmer's Ear) | Treatment


How is swimmer's ear treated?

Your doctor will look in your ear canal and remove any drainage or pus. Your doctor will check your eardrum to make sure there's no other infection. Most swimmer's ear infections can be treated with ear drops that contain antibiotics to fight infection and medicine to reduce itching and swelling. You can also take an over-the-counter pain medicine to relieve pain, such as ibuprofen (some brands: Advil, Motrin).

What else can I do for swimmer’s ear?

Follow your doctor's directions carefully and use all of your medicine(s). Swimmer's ear can be hard to treat. Here are some things that will help you get better:

  • Keep your ear as dry as possible for 7 to 10 days. Take baths instead of showers. Try to keep water out of your ears when you wash your hair. Use a cotton ball to protect your ear from water while bathing (but don't stuff the cotton into the ear canal). Don't swim or play other water sports. If you're on a swim team, ask your doctor before you return to swimming.
  • Don't put anything except the prescribed medicine in your ears. Scratching and rubbing will only make swimmer's ear worse.

Symptoms are usually much better in 3 days. They should be completely gone in 10 days. If you're not better by then, call your doctor.


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Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/16
Created: 01/99