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Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

Signs and Symptoms:

  1. Mild ‐ no fever
    • painful to move ear
    • no pain while chewing
  2. Moderate ‐ low grade fever
    • more painful to move ear
    • some pain on that side when chewing
  3. Severe ‐ fever greater than 101
    • very painful to move the ear
    • great difficulty opening the mouth and chewing
    • facial swelling in front or behind the ear

How to Treat Swimmer’s Ear?

Using prescription antibiotic drops is the most effective treatment.  Call our office to see if a prescription is needed.

  1. Have the child lie down on his or her side. Gently pull the affected ear back and place the drops making sure that they went into the ear canal (if they don’t, please call the office). Next, gently push the bump in front of the ear hole down ‐ this will push the medicine further into the canal. Have your child lie there for 3 minutes for the drops to absorb.
  2. For pain management, administer taking ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) or applying a warm pack to the ear.
  3. Rarely, for very severe infections, the child may need oral or IV antibiotics. From time to time, they may need a referral to an ENT.

How Do I Tell if the Infection Is Worsening?

Often, the pain will get slightly worse over the first 24 hours of treatment before it gets better.

Call the Office if Your Child:

  • has a fever of 101 degrees or greater
  • is having increasing difficulty opening his or her mouth
  • has facial swelling
  • looks sick
  • is unable to get the antibiotic drops to stay in the ear canal

How Can I Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

  • Never place q‐tips or any foreign objects in the ear canal!
  • If your child is swimming frequently, use a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Place 4‐6 drops in each ear in the morning and night.


For more information, please view Swimmer’s Ear/Otitis Externa (Video)