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How Do You Get An Outer Ear Infection

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What Are The Complications Of Swimmer’s Ear

614 – Severe Outer Ear Infection Microsuction

If left untreated, swimmer’s ear may cause other problems such as:

  • Hearing loss from a swollen and inflamed ear canal. Hearing usually returns to normal when the infection clears up.
  • Ear infections that keep coming back
  • Bone and cartilage damage
  • Infection spreading to nearby tissue, the skull, brain, or the nerves that start directly in the brain

How To Diagnose And Treat Swimmer’s Ear

If you have ear pain, don’t wait — see your doctor right away. Getting treatment quickly can stop an infection from getting worse.

During your appointment, your doctor will look in your ear and may gently clean it out. This will help treatments work better.

Then, you’ll probably get eardrops that may have antibiotics, steroids, or other ingredients to fight the infection and help with swelling. In some cases, you may need to take antibiotic pills, too.

What Can I Do To Feel Better

At home, follow your doctor’s directions for using ear drops and take all doses of antibiotic medicine as prescribed. Keep taking these for all days of treatment, even if you start to feel better. If you stop too soon, the infection could come back.

You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for ear pain. If they don’t help, let your doctor know. You’ll only need pain medicine for a day or two until the ear drops and antibiotics begin to work.

To protect your ear while it heals, your doctor will probably tell you to keep your ears dry for several days or weeks even while showering or shampooing! This can be tough, but your doctor can give you suggestions on how to do this, such as using a cotton ball covered in petroleum jelly as an earplug.

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Can Swimmer’s Ear Be Prevented

You may be able to prevent swimmer’s ear by using over-the-counter acetic acid drops after you’ve finished swimming for the day. But don’t use these drops if you have ear tubes or a hole in your eardrum. Dry your ears well with a clean towel after swimming, bathing, or showering. You also can use a hair dryer on the cool setting to dry the inside of the ears.

Keep all objects out of your ear canals including cotton swabs unless your doctor has told you it’s OK to use them.

Risk Factors For Ear Infections


Ear infections occur most commonly in young children because they have short and narrow Eustachian tubes. About of children develop an acute ear infection at some point.

Infants who are bottle-fed also have a higher incidence of ear infections than their breastfed counterparts.

Other factors that increase the risk of developing an ear infection are:

  • altitude changes

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Mild Frostbite Of The Ears

Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold . It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: swollen ear, ear numbness, outer ear pain, ear redness, turning blue or purple from coldness

Symptoms that always occur with mild frostbite of the ears: cold ears

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

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What Is Ear Swelling

Ear swelling is caused by a buildup of fluid in the tissues in or around your ear. The skin around your outer ear is very thin, so even a small amount of swelling is obvious. Swollen ears may be red, painful to the touch, or feel itchy.

Ear swelling can be caused by trauma, like from getting hit in the ear by a ball or even getting your ears pierced.

Some medical conditions, like an ear infection, can cause your ears to swell.

If the swelling is uncomfortable, using ice or heat, on and off, can reduce swelling and lessen pain. Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help, too.

While a swollen ear isnt usually serious, it can be a sign of an infection that needs to be treated right away. Its important to monitor your symptoms and see a doctor if they get worse.

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Managing Your Symptoms At Home

The advice below should help to relieve your symptoms to some extent and help to prevent complications:

  • avoid getting your affected ear wet wearing a shower cap while showering and bathing can help, but you should avoid swimming until the condition has fully cleared
  • remove any discharge or debris by gently swabbing your outer ear with cotton wool, being careful not to damage it donât stick cotton wool or a cotton bud inside your ear
  • remove anything from your affected ear that may cause an allergic reaction, such as hearing aids, ear plugs and earrings
  • use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve ear pain these arenât suitable for everyone, so make sure you check the information leaflet that comes with the medication first if youâre still unsure, check with your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist
  • if your condition is caused by a boil in your ear, placing a warm flannel or cloth over the affected ear can help it heal faster

Otitis Externa Treatment And Management

How To Treat Outer Ear Infections

Most people with otitis externa or ear infections are given treatment without having any tests, as the diagnosis is usually clear from examination of the ear. If you recognise the condition yourself you could try some ear drops for otitis externa. These are available without prescription, such as those containing 2% acetic acid.

Ear drops are usually enough to cure a bout of short-lasting otitis externa. However, other treatments are sometimes added. This is more likely to be necessary if you notice any of the following:

  • Your ears are particularly painful or swollen.
  • Your ears are completely blocked .
  • Your otitis externa keeps coming back or has become persistent .

It is also very important that you take steps to help things settle down, as if the conditions that caused the otitis externa in the first place are unchanged, it may well come back.

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How To Treat An Ear Infection At Home

Ear infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or rarely yeast. There are three areas in the ear where ear infections can occur in adults and children.

  • Outer ear infections : An outer ear infection most commonly experienced is often known as swimmers ear. This infection usually is due to bacterial infection of the skin tissue covering the ear canal. Excessive immersion in water or injuring the ear canal by putting things in it makes you more likely to develop an outer ear infection.
  • Middle ear infections: A middle ear infection is an infection just behind the eardrum with pus trapped in the adjacent hollow cavity of the facial bone. Middle ear infections frequently are a complication of the common cold in children. Most middle ear infections are caused by viruses and will resolve spontaneously. Bacterial infections cause some middle ear infections, which requires antibiotic treatment.
  • Inner ear infections: Inner ear infections are very rare, and usually are caused by a virus. These infections are more accurately characterized as inflammation of the structures of the inner ear . Since these structures affect hearing and balance, inner ear infections cause symptoms such as ringing of the ears or dizziness and balance disruption . Usually, inner ear infections in adults and children need medical treatment.
  • Which parts of the ear can become infected?

  • The outer earincludes the cartilaginous structure and ear canal ending at the eardrum .
  • How Long Do Ear Infections Last Without Antibiotics

    Generally, an ear infection will improve within the first couple days and clear up within one to two weeks without any treatment. It is recommended to use the wait-and-see approach for: Children age 6 to 23 months with mild inner-ear pain in one ear for less than 48 hours and a temperature less than 102.2 F.

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    What Causes Outer Ear Pain And Swelling

    The most common cause of outer ear inflammation is an infection caused by bacteria, or less often, fungus. Your risk of getting an infection is increased if:

    • Your ears are often wet. Dampness creates an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to grow and make your ears more prone to infection.
    • Skin damage. This could be from scratching, cleaning with cotton buds, or using ear buds, in-ear headphones or a hearing aid.
    • Use of chemicals. These are found in products such as shampoo, conditioners, hair spray and hair dye that can irritate your ears, making them more prone to infection.

    Treatments For Outer Ear Infection

    Ear Infection Treatments

    Outer ear infections may heal on their own without treatment. Antibiotic eardrops are the most common treatment for an outer ear infection that hasnt healed on its own. They can be prescribed by your doctor.

    Doctors may also prescribe antibiotic drops mixed with steroids to reduce swelling in the ear canal. The ear drops are typically used several times a day for 7 to 10 days.

    If a fungus is the cause of the outer ear infection, your doctor will prescribe antifungal ear drops. This type of infection is more common in people with diabetes or a depleted immune system.

    To reduce symptoms, its important to keep water out of the ears while the infection is healing.

    Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to reduce pain. In extreme cases, prescription pain medication may be prescribed.

    The most important part of home treatment for outer ear infections is prevention. Keeping the ear dry as much as possible decreases the risk of infection.

    Other tips to keep in mind include:

    • using a cotton ball or soft ear plugs to prevent water from entering the ear while showering or bathing
    • using a swim cap
    • avoiding scratching the inner ear, even with cotton swabs
    • avoiding removing ear wax on your own
    • using an eardrop mixture of rubbing alcohol and/or vinegar after swimming to help dry up excess water
    • toweling the head and ears dry after swimming

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    Complications Of Otitis Externa

    • with certain long-term health conditions, such as diabetes or HIV

    Signs and symptoms of necrotizing otitis externa can include:

    • severe ear pain and headaches
    • exposed bone visible in your ear canal
    • facial nerve palsy where your face droops on the side of the affected ear

    Without treatment, necrotizing otitis externa can be fatal. However, it can be effectively treated using antibiotics and surgery to remove any damaged tissue.

    Repeated Outer Ear Infections

    Repeated outer ear infections may be caused by skin conditions, allergies or narrow ear canals which are not self cleansing. A careful history and examination will usually help to arrive at this conclusion. Skin conditions can be treated and allergies controlled. Surgery to widen the ear canal may sometimes be required.

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    What Can I Do To Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

    To help prevent swimmer’s ear, try the following:

    • Keep your ears as dry as possible.
    • Use ear plugs when you are swimming or showering.
    • Dont scratch or clean your ear canal with cotton swabs, your fingers, or other objects.

    To dry your ears well after swimming or showering, try these tips:

    • Tilt your head to each side to help drain water out of your ears.
    • With your ear facing down, pull your earlobe in different directions. This will help drain water out.
    • Gently dry your ears with the edge of a towel.
    • Use a hair dryer on the lowest or coolest setting to gently dry your ears. Hold the dryer at least 12 inches from your head. Wave the dryer slowly back and forth. Don’t hold it still.

    Your health care provider may recommend drops to help dry your ears.

    What Are The Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Ear

    How to Get Rid of Ear Pain

    The symptoms of swimmer’s ear can include:

    • pain in the outer part of the ear anywhere from slightly uncomfortable to severe, and worse when chewing
    • a squelching or popping sensation when you move your ear or jaw
    • a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear
    • tenderness when you move your ear or jaw
    • muffled hearing

    The ear canal might look red and swollen. You might also have a discharge, which can look clear and watery or can look like pus.

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    Outer Infections And Wax

    Trying to remove ear wax on your own can cause an outer ear infection. Accidentally pushing ear wax back into the ear will cause ear and hearing problems.

    Wax is basically a self-cleaning service for our ears. It protects the ear canal from bacteria and debris that can cause infections. It might not look nice, but it does serve a purpose.

    But if youre having problems with too much wax building up, its better to seek professional advice.

    Fungal Ear Infection Symptoms

    A fungal infection in your ear canal will generally result in one or more of the following symptoms:

    • Painful or itchy ears

    If your baby is less than 2 years old, watch out for these symptoms:

    • Fever: An ear infection may cause a mild fever or no fever at all.
    • Pain or fussiness: A baby with an ear infection may rub at his ears, cry inconsolably or be unusually fussy.
    • Redness or swelling: The outside of the pinna may appear red and swollen.
    • Sleep problems: A baby with an ear infection might be sleeping fitfully because hes uncomfortable.

    If you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor to determine if you have a fungal ear infection and what treatment options are available.

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    Outer Ear Infection In Children

    Children, especially those who spend a lot of time in the water, are particularly prone to outer ear infections. Their ear canals are smaller than adults ear canals, making it more difficult for fluid to properly drain out of childrens ears. This can lead to increased infections.

    Ear pain is the most common symptom of an outer ear infection. Younger children or children who cant speak may present with symptoms like:

    • pulling on or tugging near their ear
    • crying when touching their ear
    • having fever, in rare cases
    • being fussy, crying more than usual, or having trouble sleeping
    • having fluid draining from the ear

    How Is Swimmer’s Ear Diagnosed

    Signs of an Ear Infection in Adults

    Your healthcare provider will ask about your past health and any symptoms you have now. He or she will give you a physical exam. Your provider will look into both of your ears.

    Your provider may check your ears using a lighted tool . This will help to see if you also have an infection in your middle ear. Some people may have both types of infections.

    If you have pus draining from your ear, your provider may take a sample of the pus for testing. This is called an ear drainage culture. A cotton swab is placed gently in your ear canal to get a sample. The sample is sent to a lab to find out what is causing the ear infection.

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    Check If Its An Ear Infection

    The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:

    • discharge running out of the ear
    • a feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
    • itching and irritation in and around the ear
    • scaly skin in and around the ear

    Young children and babies with an ear infection may also:

    • rub or pull their ear
    • not react to some sounds
    • be irritable or restless
    • be off their food
    • keep losing their balance

    Most ear infections clear up within 3 days, although sometimes symptoms can last up to a week.

    Differences between middle and outer ear infections

    Inner ear infection

    When Should I See A Doctor About A Fungal Ear Infection

    Fungal ear infections usually cause a fair amount of discomfort and discharge so most people want to see a doctor soon after the condition starts. There are some eardrops available from pharmacies, but the best they can do is reduce the inflammation a bit. In fungal infections, they don’t usually have much effect.

    See a doctor sooner rather than later if:

    • You are in a lot of pain.
    • Your ear produces a lot of discharge.
    • You feel generally unwell or develop unusual symptoms such as dizziness.
    • You have a high temperature.
    • The outer part of your ear looks very mucky.
    • Your hearing becomes muffled.
    • You’ve bought some treatment from the chemist which hasn’t worked.

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    When Should I See A Specialist To Treat Swimmer’s Ear

    If your ear infection has not gone away 10 to 14 days after treatment with antibiotic eardrops, you have lost your hearing, you see pus or other yellow/green matter oozing from your ear, or experience a worsening of any of the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, you should be seen by an ear specialist .

    Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/29/2019.


    What Causes An Outer Ear Infection

    How to Relieve Ear Infection Pain

    Swimming can lead to an outer ear infection. The water left inside the ear canal can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

    An infection can also occur if the thin layer of skin that lines the ear canal is injured. Intense scratching, using headphones, or placing cotton swabs in your ear can damage this delicate skin.

    When this layer of skin becomes damaged and inflamed, it can provide a foothold for bacteria. Cerumen is the ears natural defense against infection, but constant exposure to moisture and scratching can deplete the ear of cerumen, making infections more likely.

    Severe pain in the face, head, or neck can signify that the infection has advanced considerably. Symptoms accompanied by a fever or swollen lymph nodes may also indicate advancing infection. If you have ear pain with any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away.

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