Swimmer’s ear is often a painful infection of the inner ear canal caused by a moist environment producing bacteria. It can make the ear feel uncomfortable, itchy, swollen and inflamed until treatment is administered.  

But what exactly is swimmer’s ear, and most importantly, how can it be treated? 

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear 

Swimmer’s ear is common in children and people who spend a lot of time in the water. It usually starts with itching, redness, or swelling in the ear canal. You may also have trouble hearing or feel like you have water trapped in your ear. 

Symptoms vary from person to person, and while swimmer’s ear can often go unnoticed, it can get much worse if an infection sets in. If it’s left untreated, swimmer’s ear can eventually cause a fever and a deeper infection down into the middle ear, sinus cavity or travel across the ear and around the skull. 

 Common symptoms of swimmer’s ear include: 

  • Itchiness 
  • Pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Inflammation 
  • Drainage 

Causes of swimmer’s ear 

Swimmer’s ear is a prevalent condition that causes inflammation and infection of the ear canal, usually caused by a moist environment that produces enough bacteria to cause an infection. Other terms used to describe a swimmer’s ear include external otitis and acute otitis externa. 

While the cause of swimmer’s ear varies, it most commonly develops after individuals go swimming. However, it can develop due to other water-related activities such as bathing. Swimmer’s ear can also develop due to scratches or abrasions in the ear canal.  

How to prevent swimmer’s ear 

Swimmer’s ear can be painful and uncomfortable, but preventable with a few easy steps: 

  • Keep your ears dry as possible 
  • Dry your ears after swimming or showering 
  • Pull your earlobes in different directions while the ear is faced down to move around air 
  • Use a hairdryer to dry the ear, keeping it several inches away from the outer ear 
  • Invest in a bathing cap, earplugs or swim molds 

 It’s also imperative not to put objects in your ear canal. Don’t try to remove ear wax, as it helps protect yourself from infection. It’s best to try to prevent swimmer’s ear before it develops. It’s also good to treat it before it develops into a full-fledged infection by visiting a doctor once you exhibit symptoms. 

When to seek care for swimmer’s ear 

If you have swimmer’s ear and it’s not getting better, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Swimmer’s ear can cause serious complications, and it’s best to get treatment before it gets worse. 

Because symptoms often include itchiness, pain, swelling, hearing loss and possibly fever, a doctor will be able to diagnose the problem and provide options to clear the infection within several days. Common treatments include ear drops, steroids or antibiotics. 

 Experiencing severe symptoms might not necessarily be life-threatening, but it can be detrimental to your overall health. For example, there is a possibility of suffering from bone or cartilage damage, chronic infections, or infections that spread to other parts of the head, including nearby tissue, skull, brain or nerves. 


If you think you have swimmer’s ear, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help you find the best treatment you need.

Unlike most ERs or urgent care centers in the area, PRESNow 24/7 Urgent and Emergency Care in Albuquerque, patients are only billed for the level of services they need. The ER and urgent care are open 24 hours a day, every day. No appointment is required for in-person visits.

PRESNow 24/7 Urgent and Emergency Care has four convenient locations:

  • PRESNow 24/7 Urgent and Emergency Care Paseo/San Pedro is located at 6400 Paseo Del Norte Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113, and may be reached at 505-596-2100.
  • PRESNow 24/7 Urgent and Emergency Care Coors/Western Trail is located at 4515 Coors Blvd. NW Albuquerque, NM 87120, and may be reached at 505-596-2200.
  • PRESNow 24/7 Urgent and Emergency Care Isleta/Rio Bravo is located at 3436 Isleta Blvd SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105, and may be reached at 505-596-2300.
  • PRESNow 24/7 Urgent and Emergency Care Menaul/Pennsylvania is located at 7400 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110, and may be reached at 505-596-2400.