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Swimmer's Ear Infection
(External Otitis)

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Swimmer's ear facts

  • Swimmer's ear, or external otitis, is typically a bacterial infection of the skin of the outer ear canal.
  • Swimmer's ear can occur in both acute and chronic forms.
  • Excessive water exposure and frequent instrumentation (usually with cotton swabs) of the ear canal are important causative factors.
  • Early symptoms include itchy ears, a feeling of fullness, swelling, drainage, and pain.
  • Antibiotic ear drops and avoidance of water are frequently necessary for treatment.
  • Proper ear care can avoid most infections.

What is "swimmer's ear" or acute external otitis?

External otitis or "swimmer's ear" is an infection of the skin covering the outer ear and ear canal. Acute external otitis is commonly a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus, staphylococcus, or pseudomonas types of bacteria. The swimmer's ear infection is usually caused by excessive water exposure from swimming, diving, surfing, kayaking, or other water sports. When water collects in the ear canal (frequently trapped by wax), the skin can become soggy and serve as an inviting area for bacteria to grow. Cuts or abrasions in the lining of the ear canal (for example, from cotton swab injury) can also predispose to bacterial infection of the ear canal.

What are symptoms of swimmer's ear?

The first symptom of infection is that the ear will feel full, and it may itch. Next, the ear canal will swell, and ear drainage will follow. At this stage the ear will be very painful, especially with movement of the outside portion of the ear. The ear canal can swell shut, and the side of the face can become swollen. Finally, the lymph nodes (glands) of the neck may enlarge, making it difficult or painful to open the jaw. People with swimmer's ear may experience some temporary hearing loss in the affected ear.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/17/2014

Patient Comments

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Swimmer's Ear - Symptoms Question: Describe the symptoms you experienced with swimmer's ear. What were your first symptoms?
Swimmer's Ear - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, including ear drops, do you use for swimmer's ear? What works best?
Swimmer's Ear - Prevention Question: If you're prone to swimmer's ear, how do you prevent it each time you go swimming?
Swimmer's Ear - Children Question: Does your child get swimmer's ear often? If so, what treatments have you found effective?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/otitis_externa/article.htm

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