Stop otitis externa – commonly known as swimmer’s ear – to keep your ears safe in the water

Swimmer's ear symptoms and how to stop itSwimmer’s Ear, also known as otitis externa, is inflammation of the outer ear and canal and, as the name suggests, is particularly common among swimmers and triathletes. Open-water swims are hazardous as the condition can be brought on by exposure to unclean water, while the trapping of water in the ear canal after swimming or showering is another common cause.

Symptoms include pain, redness, discharge from the ear and itching. Itching is particularly problematic, as scratching the infected area can lead to broken skin and much worse symptoms. The ear canal may even swell and then become closed, so your hearing will be affected.

Four Ways To Stop Swimmer’s Ear

  1. Keep water out of the ear canal by wearing earplugs when swimming. These must fit snugly and comfortably and mustn’t scratch or break the skin. The most effective ones can be rolled into a ball to fit.
  2. After swimming or showering, mix equal parts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol, and place a few drops in each ear before allowing them to drain out. This helps to keep the ear canal dry.
  3. Clean your outer ear carefully. Do not insert anything into the ear canal, as this may worsen the condition by disrupting the layer of wax inside your ear that protects against harmful bacteria.
  4. If you end up contracting swimmer’s ear, keep it completely dry until symptoms have disappeared. This means no swimming or diving (even with caps or earplugs). Flying can also be harmful.

Find out more about the best way to treat triathlon injuries