Children's ENT

How to Recognise and Treat Swimmer’s Ear in Children

March 6, 2024
Women Had Tinnitus Problem With Water Entering The Ear Canal While Swimming

As parents, we all want our children to enjoy the benefits of swimming, whether it is for recreation or competition. However, along with the joys of splashing in the pool or diving into the sea comes the risk of a common ailment known as a swimmer’s ear. 

Understanding how to recognise and when to see an ENT Specialist to treat a swimmer’s ear is essential for safeguarding your child’s ear health.

Learn more: 5 Reasons to Bring Your Child to an ENT Specialist

Keep reading to find out more. 

What Is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear, medically known as otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal, often caused by water remaining in the ear after swimming. This moisture creates a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi, leading to inflammation and discomfort. Children, especially those who swim frequently, are particularly susceptible to this condition. 

Recognising the Signs

Ear of a Woman

If your child frequently swims, being able to recognise these signs early is crucial for prompt treatment at an ENT clinic in Singapore and preventing further discomfort. Here are the key symptoms to watch out for:

  • Ear Pain: Your child may complain of discomfort, particularly when touching or pulling on the earlobe. This pain can range from mild to severe and may worsen when pressure is applied to the affected ear.
  • Itching: Children may frequently scratch or rub their ears in an attempt to alleviate the itching sensation. It is essential not to ignore this symptom, as excessive scratching can lead to further irritation and inflammation.
  • Redness and Swelling: Visual inspection of the ear may reveal redness, swelling, or tenderness around the outer ear canal. The skin in and around the ear may appear inflamed or irritated, indicating an underlying infection.
  • Drainage: In some cases, a swimmer’s ear can cause discharge or drainage from the affected ear. This discharge may be clear, pus-like, or tinged with blood, depending on the severity of the infection.
  • Muffled Hearing: Swimmer’s ear can also lead to temporary hearing loss or a sensation of muffled hearing in the affected ear. This occurs due to the inflammation and swelling of the ear canal, which can interfere with sound transmission. 

Preventing Future Episodes

Mother Wiping and Cleans Her Baby Ear

Prevention is always better than cure, especially when it comes to safeguarding your child’s ear health against swimmer’s ear. By implementing simple yet effective preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of your child developing this uncomfortable condition. Here is how:

  • Wear Earplugs When Swimming

Invest in waterproof earplugs or custom-fitted swim moulds for your child. These specialised earplugs create a barrier that prevents water from entering the ear canal during swimming or water activities, allowing your child to enjoy their time in the water without worrying about moisture-related ear infections.

  • Avoid Swimming in Polluted Water

Encourage your child to swim in clean, well-maintained swimming pools or natural bodies of water. Avoid swimming in stagnant or polluted water sources, as they may contain bacteria, parasites, or other contaminants that can increase the risk of ear infections. If you are unsure about the water quality, err on the side of caution and choose a safer swimming environment for your child.

  • Dry Ears Thoroughly After Water Exposure

After swimming or bathing, make sure your child’s ears are dried thoroughly to remove any excess moisture. Teach them to tilt their head to each side and gently pull the earlobe in different directions. Then, use a soft towel to pat dry the outer ear carefully. Avoid inserting cotton swabs or other objects into the ear canal, as this can push water deeper inside and increase the risk of infection.

  • Encourage Regular Ear Checks

Routinely inspect your child’s ears for any signs of redness, swelling, or discharge. Early detection of potential ear problems allows for prompt intervention and prevents complications.

  • Limit Ear Canal Irritation

Advise your child to refrain from inserting objects such as fingers, cotton swabs, or hairpins into their ears. These actions can irritate the delicate ear canal lining and disrupt its natural protective barrier.

Seeking Treatment at an ENT Clinic

When it comes to a swimmer’s ear, prompt medical intervention is the key to alleviating discomfort, resolving the infection, and preventing potential complications. 

1. Medication Management

Upon examination, the ENT Specialist may prescribe various medications to address the infection and relieve symptoms:

  • Antibiotic Ear Drops:

    May be prescribed to eliminate the underlying bacteria and clear the infection.

  • Pain Relievers:

    Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate ear pain and discomfort while the infection heals.

  • Anti-inflammatory Medication:

    Anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended to reduce swelling and inflammation in the ear canal, promoting faster healing and symptom relief.

2. Ear Cleaning

The ENT Specialist may perform a gentle cleaning of the ear canal to remove any debris, wax buildup, or excess moisture contributing to the infection. This helps create a favourable environment for medication to penetrate and effectively combat the infection.

While a swimmer’s ear is typically mild and easily treatable, severe cases can potentially lead to complications such as cellulitis, bone and cartilage damage, and even hearing loss if left untreated.

Comprehensive ENT Care for Children

Dr Gan ENT Clinic offers comprehensive care for children with swimmer’s ear and other ear-related conditions in Singapore. Our team is dedicated to providing personalised treatment tailored to your child’s needs, ensuring optimal outcomes and peace of mind for parents. 

Contact us today.

    When Should You See an ENT Specialist in Singapore?

    • Any ear, nose or throat symptoms that you are troubled with or concerned about
    • Persistent blocked nose with mouth breathing or snoring

    Dr Gan Eng Cern

    Dr Gan Eng Cern is a distinguished ENT doctor with fellowship training. In addition to his clinical practice as an ear, nose and throat specialist in Singapore, Dr. Gan has contributed to the academic field as a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He is recognised for his extensive research work, with numerous contributions to reputable international ENT journals. Dr Gan is also highly sought after as a speaker and has shared his surgical knowledge as a surgical dissection teacher at various prominent ENT conferences and courses.


    • 2020 – Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Best ENT Specialist (Expat Living Singapore)
    • 2016 – Best Educator Award (Eastern Health Alliance)
    • 2016 – “Wow” Award (Patient Compliment)
    • 2014 – Eastern Health Alliance Caring Award – Silver
    • 2014 – 19th Yahya Cohen Memorial Lectureship (awarded by the College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine Singapore for best scientific surgical paper)
    • 2012 – Human Manpower Development Award (Ministry of Health, Singapore)
    • 2007 – Singhealth Best Doctor Award


    • MBBS – Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
    • MRCS (Edin) – Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    • MMed (ORL) – Master of Medicine in ENT (National University of Singapore)
    • FAMS – Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Singapore

    Why Choose Dr Gan Eng Cern


    Reliable & Reputable ENT Expert

    Experienced and patient ENT Specialist who has your best interests at heart. We aim to provide you with accessible and specialized care for any ENT condition in a comfortable setting.


    Friendly & Helpful Clinic Staff

    Our friendly staff will assist you to the best of our ability and we are happy to accept most insurance providers and assist with E-filing with relevant insurance providers or Medisave.


    Advanced ENT Equipment & Fully Equipped Facility

    Our ENT Specialist, Dr Gan Eng Cern, will be able to diagnose and offer personalised treatments for your specific ENT condition. You can expect a high level of ENT care in a spacious setting with in-house minor surgical, endoscopy, allergy testing and microscopy services.


    Financial Options

    There are various financial options available for you to ensure that you are able to receive the most optimal treatment and care. Our ENT clinic staff will be able to assist you with your medical insurance claims and work with your chosen healthcare organization to minimize the hassle and paperwork required. In some cases, you may be able to utilise the funds in your Medisave account to defray part of the costs of your treatment. As our clinic is accredited by the Medisave board, we are able to process your claims from your Medisave for certain clinic procedures.

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