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What Is Swimmer's Ear?

Kids hanging out poolside.

June 24, 2019

Summer is here and with it comes increased outdoor activities. For many, swimming is a favorite way to beat the heat, whether it's checking out one of Philadelphia's many public pools or swimming in the ocean down the shore. For beginners, seasoned swimmers, and everyone in between, it's important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of swimmer's ear.

Swimmer's ear is an infection that occurs in the outer ear canal. It's often caused by water that remains in the ear after swimming, which creates a moist environment that helps bacteria grow. However, swimmer's ear can also be brought on by a virus or a fungus and does not have to be associated with swimming.

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Symptoms of swimmer's ear include:

  • Itchiness to the ear
  • Slight redness inside your ear
  • Pain, which can become severe
  • Decreased or muffled hearing
  • Fluid or pus draining from the ear

The symptoms can become more severe, including severe pain that radiates to the neck, face, or side of head; complete blockage of the ear canal; swelling in the lymph nodes of the neck; and fever.

You should contact your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, even if they are mild. If left untreated, swimmer's ear can lead to serious complications, such as temporary hearing loss, bone and cartilage damage, and widespread infection.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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