What Causes Ear Pain After Swimming? If you’ve ever experienced ear pain after swimming, also known as swimmers’ ear, you’re not alone. The condition, medically known as otitis externa, can happen to anyone who regularly swims in chlorinated water or other water with a high salt content—which means most people who swim regularly are at risk of developing it at some point in their lives.

But what exactly is it? How do you relieve the symptoms, and ultimately, how can you prevent it? Keep reading to find out!

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What is Swimmer’s Ear? (Ear Pain After Swimming)

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. It often happens when water gets trapped in the ear canal, providing a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. The bacteria can also enter the ear through a cut or scratch, where it multiplies and infects the skin inside the ear canal.

In addition, a swimmer’s ear is more likely to occur if you have eczema or allergies that cause inflammation in the ear canal. If you frequently get a swimmer’s ear, you may need to see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist.

Swimmer’s ear usually causes mild pain that worsens when you pull on your earlobe. If left untreated, swimmer’s ear can lead to more serious infections.

male swimming in the water

How to Spot Swimmer’s Ear Before it’s too Late

  • Itchy outer ear
  • Swollen and reddened outer ear canal
  • Foul smelling drainage
  • Pain with increased pulling
  • Common symptoms of swimmer’s ear include

Ways to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

Limit your time in the water

One of the best ways to prevent ear pain after swimming is to limit your time in the water. If you’re swimming in cold water, limit your time to 30 minutes or less. And if you’re swimming in warm water, limit your time to 60 minutes or less. This will help you minimize your risk of developing a swimmer’s ear.

It’s also important to take breaks from the water so that your ears can drain and dry out. In addition, some people find it helpful to use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol as a plug for their ears when they are swimming. In this way, it will help prevent excess moisture from staying inside their ears and causing irritation and infection.

Use proper head position

When swimming, be sure to keep your head above water as much as possible. If you’re doing the breaststroke, for example, keep your head above water when you extend your arms forward. When you’re freestyle swimming, take a breath every few strokes and turn your head to the side to breathe.

Exposing your ear canal to water puts you at risk of swimmer’s ear, so it’s important to minimize the amount of time your ears are submerged.

Drain water from ears after swimming

To prevent ear pain after swimming, it’s important to drain water from your ears as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to tilt your head to the side and pull your earlobe down and back. This will help straighten out the ear canal and allow water to drain out. You can also use a towel to gently dry your ears.

Try using a pool cap

If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your ears dry while swimming, try using a pool cap. Pool caps are made of latex or silicone and fit snugly over your ears. They help keep water out of your ears and can also prevent chlorine and other chemicals from getting in. Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive and can be found at most sporting goods stores.

Don’t swim against currents

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings when swimming and to always swim with the current rather than against it. If you find yourself swimming against a strong current, stop and float for a while until the current changes direction. You can also swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of the current.

Maintain proper ear wax hygiene

While ear wax is important for protecting your ears, too much of it can lead to problems. Swimmers are especially susceptible to ear wax buildup, as the moisture from swimming can cause ear wax to become trapped in the ear canal. To prevent ear pain after swimming, be sure to maintain proper ear wax hygiene.

Go through a warm-up

Swimmers are prone to ear pain after swimming due to the cold water temperature and the high humidity in the pool area.

The cold water can cause the blood vessels in your ears to constrict, which can lead to pain. There are several things you can do to prevent this from happening, such as doing a warm-up before you get in the pool. This will help increase your body temperature and make it easier to adjust to the cold water.

Do not dive in and out of the water

If you’re swimming in a pool, make sure you don’t dive in and out of the water. Diving can put pressure on your eardrums and cause pain. Instead, enter the water slowly and carefully.

But in case you must dive, wear earplugs to help prevent pressure from building up inside your ears.

Dry your ears with hydrogen peroxide occasionally

If you swim frequently, you may be at risk of developing ear pain. There are several things you can do to prevent this from happening. One is to dry your ears with 3% hydrogen peroxide occasionally. This will help to keep your ears clean and free of infection. Try using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water in a 1:1 ratio.

Use a hair drier indirectly

To remove the water, tilt your head to the side and use a hair drier on the lowest setting. Hold the hair dryer about 12 inches away from your ear and move it around the outside of your ear. Do not put the hair dryer directly into your ear canal. Repeat this process until your ear feels dry.

Try chewing gum after swimming

Did you know that chewing gum can actually help prevent a swimmer’s ear? It’s true! Chewing gum lowers the pressure in your ears, which helps keep water out.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, researchers found that people who chewed gum for five minutes after swimming had less water in their ears than those who didn’t chew gum. So next time you’re headed to the pool, make sure to pack some gum!

Avoid swimming in dirty water

One of the best ways to avoid swimmer’s ear is to avoid swimming in dirty water. Contaminated water can contain bacteria that can lead to an infection. That means avoiding ponds, lakes, and rivers that may be contaminated with bacteria.

If you must swim in these bodies of water, be sure to wear a nose clip or earplugs. You can also use a diluted vinegar solution as a way to cleanse your ears after swimming.

Remedies for the pain and itchiness of swimmer’s ear

If you or anyone you know has ever had a swimmer’s ear, you’ll know the pain and itchiness that comes with it can make even the simplest of tasks almost unbearable.

Because of this, it’s best to take precautions to avoid getting a swimmer’s ear in the first place. However, learning how to manage it naturally at home is another great way to stay equipped.

Here are some remedies for the itchiness and pain of swimmer’s ear that might just help alleviate your suffering.


Ginger is a popular home remedy for many ailments, including swimmer’s ear. It has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can help soothe the pain and itchiness associated with the condition.

To use ginger for swimmer’s ear, you can either apply it directly to the affected area or take it internally in the form of tea or capsules. Place freshly grated ginger root on a cotton cloth and place it on the ear canal opening. Alternatively, drink 1-2 cups of hot ginger tea each day until symptoms subside. Ginger Root Benefits.

Aloe vera

There are a number of reasons to love aloe vera, but did you know that it can also be used to treat a swimmer’s ear?

Aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties make it a great natural remedy for the pain and itchiness of the swimmer’s ear. Simply apply some aloe vera gel to a cotton ball and dab it in the affected area. See Aloe Vera Gel Benefits.


Vinegar is one of the most popular home remedies for swimmer’s ear. The acidic nature of vinegar helps to kill bacteria and dry out the water in the ear canal. To use, mix equal parts vinegar and rubbing alcohol and apply to the affected ear with a cotton ball. Leave it for five minutes, then remove it. Repeat three times a day until symptoms improve.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is an effective natural remedy for swimmer’s ear. The oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the pain and itchiness associated with the condition.

Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a cotton ball and apply it to the affected area. You can also add a few drops of the oil to a diffuser and inhale the vapor. These vapors will loosen up any buildup in your ears that may be causing the discomfort.

Hydrogen peroxide

If you have hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet, you already have a remedy for swimmer’s ear on hand. The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of hydrogen peroxide help to kill the bacteria that cause swimmer’s ear.

Plus, it can help dry out the ear canal, reducing pain and itching. To use, mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. Using a cotton ball, apply the mixture to the affected ear. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, then turn the head to one side to let any liquid drain out. Repeat three times a day until symptoms subside.


This remedy may sound a bit stinky, but it works. Garlic is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent. It can help to fight off the infection that causes swimmer’s ear.

Garlic is also a natural pain reliever. To use garlic as a remedy, crush a few cloves and place them in clean gauze. Tie the gauze, put it on your ear, and leave it there for 30 minutes to an hour. Then carefully remove the gauze.

Repeat this treatment twice daily until symptoms disappear. The pain and itchiness should be gone in no time.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is another great option if you’re looking for a natural remedy. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can help soothe the pain and itchiness of swimmer’s ear. Plus,

it’s easily available and relatively inexpensive. To use, simply wet a cotton ball with some coconut oil and tape on your ear canal. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before taking it off. Repeat twice a day until the symptoms disappear.

Note: when using the remedies that require a cotton ball, be careful not to go too deep into the ear as you can damage the ear drum. You only need to dub it on the outer part of the ear.

Chronic Swimmer’s ear

This occurs when the pain is persistent (usually more than 5-7 days), and none of the natural remedies seem to work.

A doctor may recommend antibiotic drops for a certain period of time. However, you may start feeling better even before finishing your course. That being said, completing the recommended dose is always good to avoid developing resistance and recurrence.

Oral antibiotics may be recommended if the infection extends beyond the outer ear canal.

Doctor examining female with swimmers ears

Final Thoughts

Swimmer’s ear, medically known as otitis externa, occurs when moisture in the ear canal irritates the skin and causes inflammation. Bacteria and fungi can also infect the external auditory canal, which typically results in an itchy, painful and uncomfortable condition.

A swimmer’s ear often develops after being exposed to water that gets trapped in the ear, such as during swimming; however, not all exposure to water results in swimmer’s ear symptoms. Left untreated, a swimmer’s ear can lead to infection and serious hearing problems, but with proper care, it’s usually easy to treat and prevent.

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