SWIMMER'S EAR (OTITIS EXTERNA)
Swimmer's Ear (otitis externa) is a very common and often painful infection of the outside ear canal and/or opening to the ear. Typically it is caused by bacteria or fungi that develop as a result of trapped moisture in the ear after a swim. Irritation due to chlorinated pool water and corresponding scratching of the skin in the ear canal can also be a cause.
The infection is killed with antibiotics and the ear is kept dry. While ear drops are the most common method of killing the infection, some doctors prescribe oral medications as well. To ensure that the drops reach the infected area, the ear canal should first be drained. The ears must be protected from further damage; scratching the ears or inserting cotton swabs is prohibited. The ear should be kept clean and dry. Therefore, tightly fitting silicone ear plugs are recommended to prevent water from entering the ears when showering, shampooing, or bathing. Analgesics may be used if pain is severe. Warmth applied to the ears may also reduce pain.
Otitis externa responds well to treatment and complications may occur if it is left untreated. Culturing the ear canal infection should be performed on the second or third visit if there is no response to therapy.