ZocdocAnswersCan swimming cause acute otitis media?

Question

Can swimming cause acute otitis media?

I got an ear infection and I think it may be from swimming. I am a 26 year old female swimmer. Could it be something else?

Answer

First of all I am sorry to hear that you developed an ear infection. It is theoretically possible to develop a middle ear infection (otitis media) from swimming if "dirty" water made it into your ear, and there was a hole in your ear drum (tympanic membrane) that let the water into your middle ear space. However, with that being said, I think it is highly unlikely. The more common form of ear infection that is developed from swimming in ponds/lakes is something called "swimmers ear" or otitis externa. This is an infection of the outer ear canal typically from a bacteria called pseudomonas. It is usually treated with antibiotic ear drops. However, like I mentioned previously, the tympanic membrane (ear drum) usually separates your external auditory canal from your middle ear, so there is really no way for the water you are swimming in to make it into your middle ear. I would definitely recommend having a physician take a look at your ears to see if there is something going on as far as a potential otitis externa or not. Furthermore, they will be able to take an extensive history which is not realistic in thie Q/A forum. Hope this helps.

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