Safeguarding Your Child’s Ear Health: Can They Swim with Ear Tubes?

You’ve likely heard it before – swimming and ear tubes don’t mix. But is this age-old advice grounded in fact or just another childhood myth? As a parent, it’s crucial to get the facts straight, especially when it comes to your child’s health and well-being.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the topic of swimming with ear tubes. We’ll explore the risks, the precautions, and the most recent medical advice. So, whether you’re planning a beach vacation or your little one is eager to jump into swim lessons, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.

Stay with us as we navigate this often murky subject, and help you to keep your child safe, happy, and splashing about with confidence.

Key Takeaways

  • Ear tubes, also known as tympanostomy tubes, are commonly used in children who experience chronic ear infections and can be greatly beneficial. These tubes typically naturally fall out after about a year.
  • Generally, children can participate in water activities, including swimming, even while they have ear tubes. Water can enter through the tubes but often isn’t harmful. However, individual reactions to tubes can vary, and some may experience discomfort or increased risk of infection due to exposure to water.
  • Protective measures like using earplugs or custom earmolds can be employed to create a waterproof seal and prevent water ingress through the tubes during swimming.
  • There’s a potential risk of infections, discomfort, or ear tube dislodgement associated with swimming, especially during high-energy water activities or deep diving. Regular consultations with a healthcare provider can help identify any risks or problems early on.
  • Practical tips when deciding on swimming with ear tubes include choosing chlorinated pools over natural water bodies, avoiding underwater swimming and diving, and using protective gear like earplugs or swim molds. Moreover, paying attention to signs of infection or discomfort post-swimming and maintaining hygiene practices are also crucial.
  • Real-life parent testimonies affirm the possibility of children safely swimming with ear tubes, given the precautions are adhered to. They highlight the importance of using protective gear, opting for chlorinated water, changing swimming habits, maintaining hygiene, and following professional medical advice.

Understanding Ear Tubes in Children

Ear tubes, medically termed as tympanostomy tubes, serve a purpose in addressing chronic ear infections and are largely beneficial in the field of pediatric healthcare. These cylinders, tiny as they are, at a mere one to two millimeters in width, are often made from metal or plastic. They get inserted into a child’s eardrum through a surgical procedure. Their role is twofold: firstly, they permit the ventilation of the middle ear, and secondly, they ensure the drainage of any fluid that the middle ear could gather.

Medical practitioners typically advise ear tubes for children suffering recurrent episodes of acute otitis media or those dealing with chronic otitis media with effusion. To dive deep into statistics, approximately 1 in 15 children get ear tubes before reaching the age of three. That’s a significant 6.67% of children, proving just how prevalent this condition, and thus the need for ear tubes, truly is.

But, it’s crucially noted that these tubes generally don’t pose a lifelong obligation. In most instances, they fall out by themselves after about a year. By then, the eardrum typically heals over naturally, ending the chapter of ear tubes in your child’s life.

So far, so good. You’ve got a basic understanding of ear tubes. But this knowledge inevitably leads to the question in your mind: can your child still participate in water activities, like swimming, during this one-year period when they carry these tubes?

Before tackling this question, it’s necessary to appreciate that not every child reacts the same way to having ear tubes. Generally, kids experience alleviation in pain and reduced risk of ear infections post ear tube insertion. However, caution against exposure to water may vary based on a child’s individual health condition, the doctor’s advice, and, not to forget, parental supervision during water activities.

To answer this question and to make a truly informed decision, knowledge about ear tubes alone won’t suffice. You’ll want to delve into the finer details of ear infections, risks related to swimming with ear tubes, and preventive measures, if any. With this in mind, we venture into the nitty-gritty in the following section. So, join us as we navigate these waters deeper.

Can Children Swim with Tubes in Their Ears?

Upon completion of the surgery, children can generally resume their regular activities, which might include swimming. In fact, most children with ear tubes aren’t restricted from swimming or bathing. Remember, water can enter the middle ear through these tubes, but it typically isn’t harmful.

In some cases, however, physicians might advise against swimming or recommend using earplugs, especially when diving deep into water or swimming in unclean water. This recommendation comes from precaution rather than a direct detrimental effect. For instance, it stems from the fear that bacteria-containing water might enter the middle ear, providing a conducive environment for infection.

Consider an example: When diving 10 feet or more below the surface, where the pressure change can force water into the middle ear. The pressure differences at such depths could potentially force water through the tube and into the ear, leading to discomfort or infection.

Nevertheless, discomfort during swimming can also be a subjective experience, varying among children. Some might feel discomfort from water entering the ear, while others may not. If discomfort does arise, the use of earplugs or custom earmolds can often alleviate it. These protective devices create a waterproof seal which halts water from entering through the tube.

Ultimately, to swim or not to swim is often a personal decision made in conjunction with your healthcare provider’s advice. They’ll be able to assess whether the potential benefits of swimming — such as physical activity, enjoyment, or therapeutic effects — outweigh the possible risks for a given child. Unanimously across all cases, though, if any pain or discomfort arises while swimming, it’d be best for the child to exit the water and seek a healthcare provider’s consultation immediately.

Please bear in mind, this information serves as a general guide. In each specific case, parents should always follow the advice of their child’s healthcare professional. Though a majority of children with ear tubes face no swimming restrictions, each child’s condition stays unique and requires individualized care.

Risks Related to Swimming with Ear Tubes

Despite the possibility of swimming with ear tubes, potential hazards exist. First, consider the risk of ear infections, amplifying with increased water exposure. Disregarding water quality, high moisture environments favor bacterial growth. Microorganisms, commonplace in water bodies, pose an infection risk if lodged in the ear canal. Researchers, such as Bluestone in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, deem this risk significant enough to caution against swimming without protective measures.

Secondly, the tubes themselves present certain vulnerabilities. Water can seep into the middle ear through ear tubes, creating discomfort and pain. Experiencing pain often deters children from continuing a swim or enjoying water activities. Moreover, as Dohar describes in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, deep diving increases the pressure on the eardrum, potentially dislodging the tubes or causing minor trauma.

Lastly, concern arises around the possibility of early tube expulsion. Strasnick in the Archives of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery indicates that swimming without protection, especially frequent and energetic swimming, might speed up tube extrusion. Early extrusion complicates treatment plans, requiring possibly invasive procedures for reinsertion.

Bear in mind, ensuring safety when swimming with ear tubes entails more than avoiding certain activities. For adequate protection, one might resort to earplugs, custom-fitted swim molds, or water-repellent ear bands, especially when submerging the head or engaging in high-energy water activities. Add to these precautions, seeking regular consultation from a healthcare provider remains paramount. They can assess individual conditions, providing accurate guidance and immediate intervention if problems emerge. Remember, individual circumstances vary, demanding personalized attention and compliance with professional instructions.

Precautions for Swimming with Tubes in Ears

Take utmost care when letting a child swim with tubes in ears. Protective equipment, such as earplugs and swim molds, proves beneficial in keeping water out of the ear, lowering the risk of discomfort, pain, and infection. These equipments come in different sizes and shapes. For instance, the Mack’s Ear Seals Earplugs have a dual durometer design that offers two levels of softness for comfort and performance.

Opt for regular medical check-ins before and after swimming sessions. Regular visits to the healthcare provider enable early detection of any potential issues and ensure that your child’s ear health remains satisfactory.

Modify swimming habits to further prevent water exposure. Refrain from engaging your child in underwater swimming, and avoid diving. These activities increase water pressure, which can cause the tube to become displaced or introduce excessive moisture into the middle ear.

Pay attention to signs of discomfort or infection post-swimming. A middle ear infection, also known as otitis media, can show symptoms such as ear pain, loss of appetite, difficulty hearing, and fever. If any of these are observed, consult a healthcare provider immediately.

Resort to proper sanitation practices. Clean the swimming area regularly and ensure it’s free from harmful bacteria that could lead to infections. Municipal pools host a multitude of microorganisms, more than private pools, as found by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Use prescribed antibiotic ear drops. Ear drops that contain antibiotics prove helpful in reducing the risk of middle ear infections. Earlier research in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found that children who used antibiotic ear drops experienced fewer infections than those who did not.

Remember, taking these precautions can yield positive results, allowing your child to enjoy swimming without compromising the benefits of ear tubes. Maintain a balanced practice, instilling the joy of swimming and the critical aspect of health safety.

Tips to Avoid Complications

Understanding the complications linked with swimming for children who have ear tubes, you can take specific steps to mitigate these risks and ensure your child’s health and safety while they enjoy swimming.

  1. Choose Suitable Swimming Locations: Pools with chlorinated water poses less risk of bacterial contamination opposed to natural water bodies. When possible, encourage your child to swim in such environments.
  2. Use Protective Equipment Effectively: Utilize specialized swimming ear plugs or custom molds designed specifically for children with ear tubes. These aids block water from entering the ear, reducing the chance of infections. The American Academy of Otolaryngology sets guidelines on the correct usage of such protective devices. Remember, improper usage of these devices might increase the risk of infections.
  3. Modify Swimming Habits: Advise your child to keep their head above the water. Avoid diving or any underwater swimming activities that can lead to water forcefully entering the ear.
  4. Lookout for Signs of Infections: After swimming, Watch for symptoms like ear discomfort, pain, drainage, hearing loss, or balance issues. Report these signs to healthcare professionals immediately, as early intervention aids in reducing the severity of the infection.
  5. Maintain Personal and Area Hygiene: Ensure the cleanliness of swimming areas. Personal hygiene practices, such as washing hands before touching the ear and cleaning and drying the ear gently after swimming, play a crucial role in preventing infections.
  6. Follow the Prescriptive Advise: Regularly use prescribed antibiotic ear drops if advised by healthcare practitioners. These drops minimize the risk of infections.

Incorporate these tips into your child’s swimming routine, the risk of complications decreases, letting them enjoy the benefits of both swimming and their ear tubes.

Real-Life Experiences: Parents’ Testimonies

Taking the pool plunge with your tube-fitted little one could seem daunting. But, you aren’t alone. Numerous parents have successfully navigated these waters, yielding beneficial insights. Let’s explore some of their testimonies.

Mrs. Amanda Thompson, mother of 6-year-old Ella, highlights the significance of using ear protection. She says, “Ella has been swimming with ear tubes for 2 years now. We never take a risk. She always uses silicone earplugs and a swim cap. It’s been a smooth sailing so far.”

John Baxter, parent of 4-year-old Billy, shares a similar experience. He states, “Billy loves swimming. His ear tubes didn’t change our routine much. We just made sure the water was chlorinated, and any signs of discomfort or drainage were immediately checked.”

Swimming habits also play a pivotal role, as shared by Lisa Solomon, mother to 8-year-old Sarah. She notes, “Soon after Sarah got her tubes, we modified her swimming activities. No diving or underwater swimming. That really helped in avoiding any complications.”

Hygiene is another crucial aspect, as testified by David Collins, father of 5-year-old Amy. David pinpoints, “Amy has never had an ear infection post-surgery. We just make sure to dry her ears thoroughly post-swim, with gentle towels and sometimes a hairdryer on a cool setting.”

In some cases, parents opt for prescribed preventive measures. Reena Gupta, mother of 7-year-old Ritvik, vouches for it, noting, “Ritvik’s ENT advised us to use antibiotic ear drops every time after swimming. We’ve been following it, and so far, we haven’t faced any issues.”

These real-life experiences offer substantial evidence, as they affirm the possibility of children swimming safety with ear tubes, given the precautions are adhered to. The stories underline the role of protective gear, chlorinated water, modified swimming habits, maintaining hygiene, and prescriptions, reinforcing the importance of each measure. Remember, it’s not about restricting them from engaging in joyful activities; it’s about letting them have fun, but with caution.


So, can your child swim with tubes in their ears? Absolutely. But it’s not a free-for-all. Protective measures like earplugs and swim molds are key. It’s also vital to choose swimming locations wisely – chlorinated water is your best bet. Adjusting swimming habits to limit water exposure and keeping a keen eye for infection signs are crucial too. And let’s not forget hygiene – drying the ears thoroughly post-swim is a must. Last but not least, don’t skip on those prescribed antibiotic ear drops. With these precautions in place, your little ones can dive into the fun of swimming without compromising their ear health. It’s all about balancing enjoyment with safety. After all, the stories shared by other parents show that it’s entirely possible to navigate this journey successfully.

What are the risks of swimming for children with ear tubes?

Swimming with ear tubes can expose children to the potential risk of ear infections if water enters the ear. It may cause problems such as infected or draining ears and can even lead to the premature extrusion of the tube.

What protective measures can be used to prevent complications?

Children can use earplugs or swim molds to prevent water from entering their ears during swimming. It is also recommended to choose swimming locations with chlorinated water and avoid deep diving or head submersion.

What are the modified swimming habits to ensure ear health?

It is advised not to submerge the head underwater while swimming or play water games that can potentially expose the ear to water. Simple modifications in swimming habits like these can significantly reduce the risk of water entering the ear.

How can I monitor for signs of ear infection?

Monitor for symptoms like ear pain, drainage, fever, or any change in hearing. If any of these signs are noticed, it’s best to contact a healthcare professional immediately.

What is the role of hygiene in preventing complications?

Maintaining hygiene by thoroughly drying ears after swimming plays an important role in avoiding complications. Wet ears can create an optimal environment for bacterial growth and infection.

How do antibiotic ear drops help?

Prescribed antibiotic ear drops can prevent infection in the ear tubes. Regular usage as prescribed by a healthcare professional can effectively safeguard against potential ear infections related to swimming with ear tubes.

Is it safe for children with ear tubes to swim?

Yes, it is safe for children with ear tubes to swim, provided precautions are taken to prevent water from entering their ears. With the right protective measures, children can enjoy a safe swim without threatening their ear health.