Here at La Petite Baleen we specialize in babies under the age of 2. Parents often ask us if their baby can swim if they have an ear infection. Our answer to that is YES!
An ear infection is the swelling and infection in the "inner ear". It can be painful but sometimes a parent does not know their child has one until the Dr. looks in there and say, "Hey, did you know he has an ear infection?" Because your inner ear is protected by your ear drum, water cannot get in and make worse an infection. The exception to that is if they have a perforated ear drum. A perforated ear drum is extremely painful and can be diagnosed by your pediatrician. But for a regular ear infection, your baby can continue to swim. In an older child with an ear infection, I would not want them to go diving for rings past 4 ft. deep simply from the pressure that can cause discomfort.
An infection of the outer ear, also called "Swimmers Ear", is very painful and seen in older children and adults. Even a slight tug on the ear cause much pain and it is often difficult to even sleep on a pillow from the pain. You can also swim with swimmers ear. Caution must be taken to properly dry out the ear after swimming and bathing. I like to use a mixture of rubbing alcohol and distilled vinegar, let it sit in my ear for 60 seconds and flip my head over and let it drain out. My husband likes to blow the blowdryer on his ear to really dry it out.
Keep an eye out for inner ear infections in your babies if they often have congestion or colds. But know that coming to swimming will help them feel better if they are not too lethargic. I love swimming with my baby when he has a cold, the warm moist air often cleans him out and he can rest calmly afterwards. So be encouraged that your children CAN swim with an ear infection. Ask your pediatrician if you don't believe me:)