Fact vs. Myth: Swimmer’s Ear

Contrary to popular belief, swimmer’s ear is not just a normal ear infection. Separate fact from myth with our short guide.

Swimmer’s ear can involve pus draining from the infected ear.

Fact. There is a misconception that swimmer’s ear is simply a mild malady caused by water in the ear that will go away on its own. In reality, it is a bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics. The growing bacteria can indeed cause pus.

Other swimmer’s ear symptoms include itchiness inside the ear, redness and swelling of the ear, and pain when pressure is put on the ear.

Swimmer’s ear can be spread from one person to another.

Myth. It is thankfully not contagious. The germs that cause swimmer’s ear live in pools and other places we swim regardless of whether another infected person is in the water. It’s trapped fluid in the ear that lets the germs multiply.

When I tug on my ear lobe or wiggle my outer ear it hurts a lot, so I must have something more serious that swimmer’s ear.

Myth. Swimmer’s Ear can be extremely painful. In fact, outer ear pain is one of the differentiating factors between swimmer’s ear and a middle ear infection, or the type of ear infection that is common during childhood.

If I get water in my ear, pulling the earlobe in different directions while tilting my head to the side can help the water drain out.

Fact. It might seem silly, but it can help. The ear canal is curved inside the head, meaning a large drop of water has many surfaces to which to cling. Tugging on the earlobe can detach the water enough to let it run out. However, this process takes time and is not always effective. For a fast, effective, and safe solution, try AfterSwim® Water Removal. AfterSwim is a small device with a tapered edge that lets it reach the water, but prevents you from over-inserting it and causing eardrum damage. When the edge of the device touches the water, it wicks it out and leaves you worry-free.

I think the water is trapped behind ear wax. I should use a cotton swab to try and remove both the water and the ear wax.

Myth. Cotton swabs can easily be over-inserted and cause ear wax impaction and ear drum damage. Bionix also makes a device for removing ear wax at home called OtoClear®. The tip squirts water or solution in three different directions to direct it toward the ear canal walls so it spirals outward, bringing ear wax with it. If the water is still caught after the ear wax is out, you can use AfterSwim® Water Removal to completely dry it out.

Read the full CDC fact sheet on swimmer’s ear.

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